Category Archives: Education

3 CNN journalists behind retracted Russia-Trump story resign

Three journalists, including the executive editor of a new investigative branch, have left CNN following the recent retraction of a story on an alleged Congress investigation into a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials.”

Report author Thomas Frank and two senior CNN Investigations Unit figures resigned over the story. Investigations Unit editor Eric Lichtblau and Lex Haris, CNN Investigations executive editor, who was building a team that includes notorious Russia-hawk Michael Weiss, both resigned.

“In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication,” CNN stated.

The Russia-related article quoted “a single anonymous source,” and was to be examined by “fact-checkers, journalism standards experts and lawyers” before being presented to the public. Haris, Lichtblau, and Frank failed to follow “some standard editorial processes,” a CNN internal investigation concluded.

“This breakdown in editorial workflow disturbed the CNN executives who learned about it,” CNN correspondent Brian Stelter said.

The resignations of the three men, who are experienced journalists, “are likely to come as a surprise to colleagues.” Lichtblau was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, and Haris had been working at the company since 2001 and was the executive editor of CNN Money before joining the investigative unit.

“On Friday, CNN retracted a story published by my team. As Executive Editor of that team, I have resigned,” Haris said.

CNN, however, has not concluded that “the facts of the story were necessarily wrong,” saying that “the story wasn’t solid enough to publish as-is,” the correspondent said, citing people involved in the investigation.

Following the journalists’ departures, US President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., called the story “the biggest fake news scandal in the network’s history,” and called on the company’s president, Jeff Zucker, to admit the story was fake.

“Maybe Jeff Zucker should do an on-camera press briefing about CNN’s fake news scandal before the White House does any more of them,” he told Breitbart News.

Wow, CNN had to retract big story on “Russia,” with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!

The story claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee was investigating ties between several figures in the Trump camp and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). The article mentioned a meeting between Trump’s ally and financier, Anthony Scaramucci, and the CEO of the RDIF, Kirill Dmitriev, claiming that the investigators wondered if they had discussed lifting US sanctions against Russia at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year. Both sides denied speaking on the topic, while Scaramucci told CNN that there was “nothing there.” The news company had to apologize to the financier.

Following the scandal, a report emerged on BuzzFeed, saying that all Russia-related articles will be under “new publishing restrictions.” BuzzFeed cited a leaked email which prohibits publishing “any content involving Russia” before showing it to the executive editor of CNN Money, Rich Barbieri, and Vice President of Premium Content Video Jason Farkas.

In wake of story retraction, CNNMoney exec editor sends memo to staff mandating all “Russia-related content” must be cleared by him or VP

From RT
Posted by The NoN-Conformist

Taking on the Alt-Reich

Hitler’s American Model: the United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, by James Q. Whitman, brings into full view the U.S. Immigration Act of 1924’s place in the context of Nazi theory and practice, writes Scott McLemee.

Finding himself in prison following the beer-hall fiasco in Munich in 1923, Adolf Hitler had time to put his thoughts about politics and destiny into order, at least as much as that was possible. The United States was part of his grand vision, and not as someplace to conquer.

“The racially pure and still unmixed German has risen to become master of the American continent,” he wrote in Mein Kampf, “and he will remain the master, as long as he does not fall victim to racial pollution.” He was encouraged on the latter score by what he had learned of American immigration policy. With its stated preference for Northern Europeans, its restrictions on those from Southern and Eastern Europe, and its outright exclusion of everyone else, the Immigration Act of 1924 impressed Hitler as exemplary. It manifested, “at least in tentative first steps,” what he and his associates saw as “the characteristic völkisch conception of the state,” as defined in some detail by the Nazi Party Program of 1920.

Revulsion is an understandable response to this little traipse through the ideological sewer, but it is wholly inadequate for assessing the full measure of the facts or their implications. The admiration for American immigration policy expressed in Mein Kampf was not a passing thought on the day’s news (Hitler had been in prison for about two months when Calvin Coolidge signed the act into law) nor a one-off remark. Its place in the full context of Nazi theory and practice comes into view in Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton University Press) by James Q. Whitman, a professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School.

Many people will take the very title as an affront. But it’s the historical reality the book discloses that proves much harder to digest. The author does not seem prone to sensationalism. The argument is made in two succinct, cogent and copiously documented chapters, prefaced and followed with remarks that remain within the cooler temperatures of expressed opinion (e.g.: “American contract law, for example, is, in my opinion, exemplary in its innovativeness”).

Hitler’s American Model is scholarship and not an editorial traveling incognito. Its pages contain many really offensive statements about American history and its social legacy. But those statements are all from primary sources — statements about America, made by Nazis, usually in the form of compliments.

“The most important event in the history of the states of the Second Millennium — up until the [First World] War — was the founding of the United States of America,” wrote a Nazi historian in 1934. “The struggle of the Aryans for world domination thereby received its strongest prop.” Another German author developed the point two years later, saying that “a conscious unity of the white race would never have emerged” without American leadership on the global stage following the war.

Examples could be multiplied. The idea of the United States as a sort of alt-Reich was a Nazi commonplace, at least in the regime’s early years. But it was not just a matter of following Hitler’s lead. The white-supremacist and eugenicist writings of Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard — among the best-selling American authors of a 100 years ago — circulated in translation in the milieu that spawned Hitler. (I don’t recall Hannah Arendt mentioning Grant or Stoddard in Origins of Totalitarianism, oddly enough.) A popular Nazi magazine praised lynching as “the natural resistance of the Volk to an alien race that is attempting to gain the upper hand.” European visitors noted the similarity between the Ku Klux Klan and fascist paramilitary groups like the Brownshirts, and they compared the post-Reconstruction order in the South to the Nazi system.

But the journalistic analogies and propaganda talking points of the day, while blatant enough, don’t convey the depth of American influence on Nazi race law. The claim of influence runs against the current of much recent scholarship arguing that Nazi references to the Jim Crow system were “few and fleeting” and that American segregation laws had little or no impact on the Nuremberg Laws. (At the Nuremberg rally of 1935, the Nazis proclaimed citizenship limited to those “of German blood, or racially related blood” and outlawed marriage or sexual relations between Jews and German citizens.)

While the Nazis did call attention to segregation in the United States — so the argument goes — it was to deflect criticism of German policy. The error here, as Whitman sees it, comes from treating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson as the primary or quintessential legal component of racial oppression in the United States, and presumably the one Nazi jurists would have looked to in reshaping German policy. But, according to Whitman, “American race law” in the 19th and much of the 20th century:

sprawled over a wide range of technically distinct legal areas … [including] Indian law, anti-Chinese and -Japanese legislation, and disabilities in civil procedure and election law …. Anti-miscegenation laws on the state level featured especially prominently … [as] did immigration and naturalization law on the federal level ….

Even before the outbreak of World War I, German scholars were fascinated by this teeming mass of American racist law — with a particular interest in what one of them identified as a new category of “subjects without citizenship rights” (or second-class citizens, to put it another way) defined by race or country of ancestry. By the 1930s, the anti-miscegenation laws in most American states were another topic of great concern. While many countries regarded interracial marriage as undesirable, Nazi jurists “had a hard time uncovering non-American examples” of statutes prohibiting it.

A stenographic transcript from 1934 provides Whitman’s most impressive evidence of how closely Nazi lawyers and functionaries had studied American racial jurisprudence. A meeting of the Commission on Criminal Law Reform “involved repeated and detailed discussion of the American example, from its very opening moments,” Whitman writes, including debate between Nazi radicals and what we’d have to call, by default, Nazi moderates.

The moderates argued that legal tradition required consistency. Any new statute forbidding mixed-race marriages had to be constructed in accord with the one existing precedent for treating a marriage as criminal: the law against bigamy. This would have been a bit of a stretch, and the moderates preferred letting the propaganda experts discourage interracial romance rather than making it a police matter.

The radicals were working from a different conceptual tool kit. Juristic tradition counted for less than what Hitler had called the “völkisch conception of the state,” which demanded Aryan supremacy and racial purity. It made more sense to them to follow an example that had been tried and tested. One of the hard-core Nazis on the commission knew where to turn:

Now as far as the delineation of the race concept goes, it is interesting to take a look at the list of American states. Thirty of the states of the union have race legislation, which, it seems clear to me, is crafted from the point of view of race protection. … I believe that apart from the desire to exclude if possible a foreign political influence that is becoming too powerful, which I can imagine is the case with regard to the Japanese, this is all from the point of race protection.

The lawyers whom Whitman identifies as Nazi radicals seemed to appreciate how indifferent the American states were to German standards of rigor. True, the U.S. laws showed a lamentable indifference to Jews and Gentiles marrying. But otherwise they were as racist as anything the führer could want. “The image of America as seen through Nazi eyes in the early 1930s is not the image we cherish,” Whitman writes, “but it is hardly unrecognizable.”

By Scott McLemee/InsideHigherED

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Senate GOP Health Care Bill Would End Obamacare Penalties and Taxes

(WASHINGTON) — Senate Republicans would cut Medicaid, end penalties for people not buying insurance and erase a raft of tax increases as part of their long-awaited plan to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional aides and lobbyists say.

After weeks of closed-door meetings that angered Democrats and some Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned to release the proposal Thursday. The package represents McConnell’s attempt to quell criticism by party moderates and conservatives and win the support he needs in a vote he hopes to stage next week.

In a departure from the version the House approved last month, which President Donald Trump privately called “mean,” the Senate plan would drop the House’s waivers allowing states to let insurers boost premiums on some people with pre-existing conditions. It would also largely retain the subsidies Obama provided to help millions buy insurance, which are pegged mostly to people’s incomes and the premiums they pay.

The House’s tax credits were tied to people’s ages, a change the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would boost out-of-pocket costs to many lower earners. Starting in 2020, the Senate version would begin shifting increasing amounts of tax credits away from higher earners, making more funds available to lower-income recipients, some officials said.

The emerging Senate bill was described by people on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Facing uniform Democratic opposition, the Senate plan would fail if just three of the chamber’s 52 Republicans defect. More than half a dozen GOP senators have expressed problems with the measure, and a defeat would be a humiliating setback for Trump and McConnell on one of their party’s top priorities.

“We have a responsibility to move forward, and we are,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

GOP Senate leaders were eager for a seal of approval from Trump, who had urged them to produce a bill more “generous” than the House’s.

“They seem to be enthusiastic about what we’re producing tomorrow,” No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas said Wednesday of White House officials. “It’s going to be important to get the president’s support to get us across the finish line.”

Democrats say GOP characterizations of Obama’s law as failing are wrong, while the Republican effort would boot millions off coverage and leave others facing higher out-of-pocket costs. The budget office said the House bill would cause 23 million to lose coverage by 2026.

The sources said that, in some instances, the documents McConnell planned to release might suggest optional approaches for issues that remain in dispute among Republicans.

That could include the number of years the bill would take to phase out the extra money Obama provided to expand the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor and disabled to millions of additional low earners.

The House-passed bill would halt the extra funds for new beneficiaries in three years, a suggestion McConnell has offered. But Republicans from states that expanded Medicaid, like Ohio’s Rob Portman, want to extend that to seven years.

The Senate proposal would also impose annual limits on the federal Medicaid funds that would go to each state, which would tighten even further by the mid-2020s. Unlimited federal dollars now flow to each state for the program, covering all eligible beneficiaries and services.

The Senate would end the tax penalties Obama’s law created for people not buying insurance and larger employers not offering coverage to workers. The so-called individual mandate — aimed at keeping insurance markets solvent by prompting younger, healthier people to buy policies — has long been one of the GOP’s favorite targets.

To help pay for its expanded coverage to around 20 million more people, Obama’s law increased taxes on higher income people, medical industry companies and others, totaling around $1 trillion over a decade. Like the House bill, the Senate plan would repeal or delay many of those tax boosts.

The House waiver allowing higher premiums for some people with pre-existing serious illnesses was added shortly before that chamber approved its bill last month and helped attract conservative support. It has come under widespread criticism from Democrats and helped prompt some moderate House Republicans to vote against the measure.

Conservatives like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., have warned they could oppose the bill if it doesn’t go far enough in dismantling Obama’s law. Moderates including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, have expressed concern that the measure would cause many to lose coverage.

From Alan Fram & Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar / AP/Time

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Democrats Have a Bigger Problem Than Jill Stein

  Jill Stein at a Green Party town hall meeting in Arizona in 2016. (Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0)

Jill Stein is back in the spotlight.

In the past few weeks, a number of interviews with the 2016 Green Party presidential nominee have popped up—and with them comes the inevitable ire of the Democratic Party.

Stein has faced this wave of criticism before, and it doesn’t seem to bother her. Earlier in June, she spoke with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill on his “Intercepted” podcast to discuss liberal accusations that her campaign took crucial votes away from Hillary Clinton.

“We’ve got to find a reason. We’ve got to blame somebody,” Stein says of the mentality of voters who see her as a “spoiler.”

“That said,” she continues, “it’s really important to stand back and realize that the solution for a democracy on life support is not less democracy. Silencing political opposition is a very dangerous thing to do.”

She expressed similar sentiments in an interview with Ben Schreckinger for Politico Magazine. “I consider it a great honor that the party and our prior campaign for president is suddenly being attacked outside of an election season,” she told him, adding that she doesn’t have any regrets about her 2016 presidential bid.

Stein’s comments in these interviews and on social media have prompted backlash. The left-leaning site Jezebel ran a story attacking her for her “infuriating” point of view. Keith Olbermann, who has a Twitter following of 972,000, called Stein an “imbecile” in a tweet earlier this month. Neera Tanden, president of the policy research organization Center for American Progress, also used Twitter to blame Stein for rising tensions in Syria.  Even Schreckinger latched on to the assumption that Stein may have something to apologize for, running his interview with her under the title “Jill Stein Isn’t Sorry.”

Stein is probably used to intense criticism—she faced plenty of it when she was running for president. And as Schreckinger notes, there are some issues, such as her relationship with the Russian government, that may merit a closer look (although she addresses this topic in detail during her interview with Scahill, lambasting the “neo-McCarthyism” currently at play in American politics). But the Democrats’ insistence that Stein is partly to blame for Donald Trump’s election overlooks a more insidious element of American politics: nonvoters, or those who showed up at a polling place in 2016 and neglected to cast a vote for president.

Meagan Day of The Week explains:

There are two categories of non-two-party votes in the contemporary American political climate, and they’re regarded differently. The first is the third-party vote, which, especially on the left side of the aisle, is considered burglary. The second is total abstention, which is considered inevitable, and therefore hardly factors into the mainstream media’s election postmortems. In neither scenario does the losing major party (in this case the Democrats) take responsibility for failing to move potential voters to act on its behalf.

“But,” you may protest, “Donald Trump won by a margin smaller than the number of Green Party votes in key states, particularly the Upper Midwest!” And you’re right, that’s true. Take Michigan: Trump won Michigan by 13,225 votes, while Jill Stein walked away with 51,463 votes. Clearly, if all of those people had voted for Hillary Clinton instead of Stein, Clinton would have won Michigan. (Whether Stein votes ought to be otherwise considered shoo-in Democrat votes is a separate matter.)

If these are the only variables of interest to us — the number of ballots affirmatively cast for Trump, Clinton, Stein, and maybe Johnson — then yeah, the Stein-as-spoiler argument makes some sense. But here’s another number, one that ought to change your perspective: 87,810. That’s how many Michigan voters showed up to the polls, cast ballots, and declined to vote for a presidential candidate at all.

Day goes on to explain that in the swing states of Michigan, Maine, Florida and Arizona, “the undervote total was larger than the margin of victory.”

“And what is an undervote but an intentional expression of distaste for the prospects on offer?” Day ponders. “Apparently these voters found the presidential choices too unappetizing for even a clothespin vote.”

Also worth mentioning, of course, is the problem of low voter turnout. “Nearly three million Michiganders joined the roughly 40 percent of eligible American adults who declined to vote at all last year,” Day writes. “In Michigan, those eligible nonvoters were 200 times larger than Trump’s margin of victory.”

These nonvoters represent a critical problem in both the Democratic and the Republican parties, in that nonvoters tend to be poor or working-class people of color. Day writes:

Nonvoters are far less likely to identify with one of the major parties. And who can blame them? While it’s unfair and ill-advised to completely elide the differences between Democrats and Republicans, the fact remains that neither party has a proven track record of robustly demanding and taking consistent steps to ensure that everyone is paid a living wage, has access to health care, has quality public education — even where the provision of those basic goods and services contravenes corporate or donor-class interests. …

Without a functional safety net, poor and working-class people have a hard time in America, and neither party is truly committed to fixing that.

“The only reason the [minuscule] Stein vote totals matter to anyone is that, deep down, they take the political inactivity of poor people — especially poor people of color — for granted,” Day concludes. And yet liberal media repeatedly utilize its platform to attack Stein for speaking up about poverty, the environment and inequality.

“We need a political process that creates multi-partisan democracy. That’s really where democracies get their best shot at moving forward and solving our crises,” Stein told Scahill in her “Intercepted” interview. “Let’s create the democracy that enables us to choose the candidates that we want.”

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Ex-Seattle Police Chief Condemns Systemic Police Racism Dating Back to Slave Patrols

On Wednesday, President Obama met at the White House with law enforcement officials and civil rights leaders. President Obama hosted the meeting one week after the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and the killing of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas. While the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile made national headlines, they were not isolated incidents. According to a count by The Guardian, at least 37 people have been killed by police in the United States so far this month. That’s more than the total number of people killed by police in Britain since the year 2000. Overall, police in the United States have killed a total of 585 people so far this year. We speak to former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, author of the new book “To Protect and to Serve: How to Fix America’s Police.”

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: On Wednesday, President Obama met at the White House with law enforcement officials and civil rights leaders. President Obama hosted the meeting one week after the police—fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and the killing of five police officers by a sniper in Dallas.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The roots of the problems we saw this week date back not just decades, date back centuries. There are cultural issues, and there are issues of race in this country, and poverty and a whole range of problems that will not be solved overnight. But what we can do is to set up the kinds of respectful conversations that we’ve had here, not just in Washington, but around the country, so that we institutionalize a process of continually getting better.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: While the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile made national headlines, they were not isolated incidents. According to a count by The Guardian, at least 37 people have been killed by police in the United States so far this month. That’s more than the total number of people killed by police in Britain since the year 2000. Overall, police in the United States have killed a total of 585 people so far this year.

AMY GOODMAN: After Wednesday’s summit, President Obama said the nation is “not even close” to resolving issues between police and the communities they serve.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re going to have to do more work together in thinking about how we can build confidence that after police officers have used force, and particularly deadly force, that there is confidence in how the investigation takes place and that justice is done.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, our next guest writes, quote, “American policing is in crisis. … Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are two of the most recent casualties in what has become a deadly epidemic.” It may surprise you to learn who wrote those words—not a Black Lives Matter activist, but a former big city police chief. Norm Stamper is the former police chief of Seattle, Washington. He joins us now from Los Angeles, California. His new book, To Protect and to Serve: How to Fix America’s Police. He recently wrote an article for Time magazine called “Police Forces Belong to the People.” His previous book headlined Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.

Norm Stamper, welcome back to Democracy Now! As you look at what happened in the last week alone, not to mention what has happened in the years since you were the chief of police in Seattle, what are your comments about how police are trained to deal with communities of color?

NORM STAMPER: You know, the training of police officers is a very prominent theme in the conversation about police reform, and it’s, of course, very, very important. But there are much deeper and important issues, as far as I’m concerned, namely those associated with the institution itself, the structure of the organization, the culture that arises out of that structure. It’s paramilitary. It’s bureaucratic. It insulates and isolates police officers from the communities that they are here to serve.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So what would you say, Norm Stamper, are some of the systemic problems of police violence? And what do you think has led to—you referred to the paramilitary nature of the police forces now. What do you think accounts for that?

NORM STAMPER: I think what accounts for it—there are several factors, one of which is that in 1971 Richard Nixon famously proclaimed drugs public enemy number one—drug abuse—and declared all-out war on drugs, which was really a declaration of war against his own people. And overwhelmingly, young people, poor people, people of color suffered, and have continued to suffer over the decades as a result of a decision to put America’s front-line police officers on the front lines of the drug war as foot soldiers. And then we wonder why there’s such a strain in the relationship between police and community, and particularly those communities that are entrenched in poverty and other economic disadvantage, communities that historically have been neglected or abused or oppressed by their own police departments. So we really intensified and escalated the country’s war against poor people with that drug war. And we have spent $1.3 trillion prosecuting that war since the 1970s, incarcerated literally tens of millions. Please hear that figure: tens of millions of disproportionately young people and poor people and people of color. What do we have to show for it? Drugs are more readily available at lower prices and higher levels of potency. It’s time for us to end that drug war. That began the militarization of policing, without a doubt.

9/11 is another milestone, for obvious reasons. The federal government began throwing military surplus at local law enforcement agencies, such that, in terms of how they look, in terms of how they’re equipped, in terms of how they are weaponized, America’s police forces look more like the military than domestic peacekeepers.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to remarks made by the New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, who was speaking Sunday on Face the Nation.

COMMISSIONER BILL BRATTON: Police officers come from the community. We don’t bring them in from Mars; they come from the communities they police. And over the years, increasingly, we’ve had much more diversity in policing—Muslim officers, increasing numbers of African-American officers, Latino officers. And that’s a good thing, because the community wants to see that. And that’s part of the way we bridge the divide that currently exists between police and community, a divide that has been closing and a divide that we hope, over time—and certainly here in New York, I can speak for our efforts here the last several years, myself and Mayor de Blasio—to not only bridge the divide, but to close it.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Your response?

NORM STAMPER: Our police officers do, in fact, come from the community. As Bill Bratton said, they don’t come from Mars. They are of us. They live among us. They are motivated by a variety of different interests in becoming a police officer. It’s not that—that the candidates that we’re selecting, necessarily, are poor candidates. It is what happens to them when they get acculturated by this law enforcement structure that makes it clear to them that they are on the front lines of a war against their own people. And so you get police officers heading out to put in a shift who are feeling that the people are the enemy.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to turn to Republican Senator Tim Scott, who spoke on the floor of the Senate Wednesday about being the victim of racial profiling. Scott is one of only two African Americans in the U.S. Senate.

SEN. TIM SCOTT: In the course of one year, I’ve been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers—not four, not five, not six, but seven times in one year—as an elected official. Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood, or some other reason just as trivial.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Republican Senator Tim Scott speaking Wednesday. So, Norm Stamper, can you respond to what he said, and also whether you think the police is plagued with systemic racism?

NORM STAMPER: Well, let me start with that question. The short answer is yes. I can also cite another example closer to home for me. A former King County executive, Ron Sims, African-American man, man of the cloth, spoke to a reporter recently and said, “I have been stopped eight times by the police. And invariably the question seems to be ‘What are you doing here?'” Do white members of our community get that kind of treatment? In blunt terms, it is racist. It’s a racist action on the part of an officer, if he or she does not have reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. That’s what the law says. And yet that law is systematically defied by police across this country in unlawful search-and-seizure, stop-and-frisk situations.

But there’s also systemic racism. It goes back as far as the institution. And I know President Obama made reference to the long history, the centuries-old history, of the relations between police and community, and particularly communities of color. Policing in this country has its origins in the slave patrols. And from decade to decade, generation to generation, there are still police officers in this country who act with superiority, who act in a very authoritarian, very dominant way. Part of that is their training, and only some of that, by the way, takes place in the academy. Most of it takes place in the locker room or in the front seat of a police car, when the senior officer tells the junior officer, “Forget what they taught you in the academy. You’re in the real world now.”

From DemocracyNow

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Truth-free, Fact-free Foreign Policy

Lies, distortions and self-serving obfuscations are to be expected when political and business leaders discuss far away places.

In a recent Toronto Star column Rick Salutin observed that “foreign policy is a truth-free, fact-free zone. When leaders speak on domestic issues, citizens at least have points of reference to check them against. On foreign affairs they blather freely.”

Salutin vividly captures an important dynamic of political life. What do most Canadians know about our government’s actions in Afghanistan or Haiti? Most of us have never been to those countries and don’t know anyone living there, from there or even who’ve been there. We are heavily dependent on media and politicians’ portrayals. But, as I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation, international correspondents generally take their cue from the foreign policy establishment or diplomats in the field.

Journalists are prepared to criticize governments and corporations to a certain extent on “domestic” issues, but the spirit of “challenging power” largely disappears regarding foreign policy. One reason is that nationalism remains an important media frame and the dominant media often promotes an “our team” worldview.

Another explanation is the web of state and corporate generated ideas institutes, which I review in A Propaganda System, that shape the international discussion. In a forthcoming second volume I look at the Canadian Left’s contribution to confusing the public about international policies.

The state/corporate nexus operates largely unchallenged in the Global South because there is little in terms of a countervailing force. Instead of criticizing the geo-strategic and corporate interests overwhelmingly driving foreign policy decisions, the social democratic NDP has often supported them and contributed to Canadians’ confusion about this country’s international affairs. The NDP endorsed bombing Serbia and Libya and in recent years they’ve supported military spending, Western policy in the Ukraine and the dispossession of Palestinians. The NDP has largely aligned with the foreign policy establishment or those, as long time NDP MP Libby Davies put it, who believe a “Time Magazine version” of international affairs.

Closely tied to the NDP, labour unions’ relative indifference to challenging foreign policy is another reason why politicians can “blather freely” on international affairs. On many domestic issues organized labour represents a countervailing force to the corporate agenda or state policies. While dwarfed by corporate Canada, unions have significant capacities. They generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual dues and fund or participate in a wide range of socially progressive initiatives such as the Canadian Health Coalition, Canadian Council for Refugees and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. But, unions rarely extend their broader (class) vision of society to international affairs. In fact, sometimes they endorse unjust international policies.

To the extent that politicians’ “blathering” is restrained it is largely by other countries. The recent political conflict in the Ukraine provides an example. Canadian politicians have aggressively promoted a simplistic, self-serving, narrative that has dominated the media-sphere. But, there is a source of power countering this perspective. Moscow financed/controlled media such as RT, Sputnik and others have offered a corrective to the Western line. A comparatively wealthy and powerful state, Russia’s diplomats have also publicly challenged the Canadian media’s one-sided portrayal.

An important, if rarely mentioned, rule of foreign policy is the more impoverished a nation, the greater the gap is likely to be between what Canadian officials say and do. The primary explanation for the gap between what’s said and done is that power generally defines what is considered reality. So, the bigger the power imbalance between Canada and another country the greater Ottawa’s ability to distort their activities.

Haiti provides a stark example. In 2004 Ottawa helped overthrow Haiti’s elected government and then supported an installed regime that killed thousands. Officially, however, Ottawa was “helping” the beleaguered country as part of the “Friends of Haiti” group. And the bill for undermining Haitian democracy, including the salaries of top coup government officials and the training of repressive cops, was largely paid out of Canada’s “aid” to the country.

A stark power imbalance between Ottawa and Port-au-Prince helps explain the gulf between Canadian government claims and reality in Haiti. Describing the country at the time of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s ouster, former Globe and Mail foreign editor Paul Knox observed, “obviously, in the poorest country of the Americas, the government is going to have fewer resources at its disposal to mount a PR exercise or offensive if it feels itself besieged.”

With a $300 US million total budget for a country of eight million, the Haitian government had limited means to explain their perspective to the world either directly or through international journalists. On the other hand, the Washington-Paris-Ottawa coup triumvirate had great capacity to propagate their perspective (at the time the Canadian International Development Agency and Foreign Affairs each spent 10 times the entire Haitian budget and the Department of National Defence 60 times). The large Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince worked to influence Canadian reporters in the country and their efforts were supplanted by the Haiti desks at CIDA and Foreign Affairs as well as the two ministries’ communications departments and Canadian military officials.

While an imbalance in communications resources partly explains the coverage, there is also a powerful ideological component. The media’s biased coverage of Haiti cannot be divorced from ‘righteous Canada’ assumptions widely held among the intelligentsia. As quoted in an MA thesis titled “Covering the coup: Canadian news reporting, journalists, and sources in the 2004 Haiti crisis”, CBC reporter Neil McDonald told researcher Isabel McDonald the Canadian government was “one of the most authoritative sources on conflict resolution in the world.”

According to Isabel McDonald’s summary, the prominent correspondent also said, “it was crazy to imagine Canada would be involved in a coup” and that “Canadian values were incompatible with extreme inequality or race-based hegemony”, which Ottawa’s policies clearly exacerbated in Haiti. (Neil Macdonald also said his most trusted sources for background information in Haiti came from Canadian diplomatic circles, notably CIDA where his cousins worked. The CBC reporter also said he consulted the Canadian ambassador in Port-au-Prince to determine the most credible human rights advocate in Haiti. Ambassador Kenneth Cook directed him to Pierre Espérance, a coup backer who fabricated a “massacre” used to justify imprisoning the constitutional prime minister and interior minister. When pressed for physical evidence Espérance actually said the 50 bodies “might have been eaten by wild dogs.”)

The Canadian Council on Africa provides another example of the rhetoric that results from vast power imbalances and paternalist assumptions. Run by Canadian corporations operating on the continent, the council said it “focuses on the future of the African economy and the positive role that Canada can play meeting some of the challenges in Africa.”

Similar to the Canadian Council on Africa, the Canadian American Business Council, Canada China Business Council and Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce also seek to advance members’ profit-making potential. But, the other lobby groups don’t claim humanitarian objectives. The primary difference between the Canadian Council on Africa and the other regional lobby organizations is the power imbalance between Canada/the West and African countries, as well as the anti-African paternalism that dominates Canadian political culture. A group of Canadian corporations claiming their aim was to meet the social challenges of the US or UK would sound bizarre and if they said as much about China they would be considered seditious. (Ironically the US-, Britain- and China-focused lobby groups can better claim the aid mantle since foreign investment generally has greater social spinoffs in more independent/better regulated countries.) But, paternalist assumptions are so strong — and Africans’ capacity to assert themselves within Canadian political culture so limited — that a lobby group largely representing corporations that displace impoverished communities to extract natural resources is, according to the Canadian Council on Africa’s previous mission statement, “committed to the economic development of a modern and competitive Africa.”

To counter the “fact free zone” individuals need to educate themselves on international issues, by seeking alternative sources of information. More important, we should strengthen internationalist social movements and left media consciously seeking to restrict politicians’ ability to “blather freely”.

by Yves Engler/DissidentVoice

Posted By The NON-Conformist

Gutting Health Care in Darkness

WASHINGTON—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell once had passionate views about how carefully Congress should consider sweeping changes to the health care system.

“Fast-tracking a major legislative overhaul such as health care reform or a new national energy tax without the benefit of a full and transparent debate does a disservice to the American people,” McConnell said in 2009, referring to the two big issues of the moment. Democrats using such means, he added, “would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis.”

Republican hypocrisy is now so rampant that it’s typically ignored or, worse, granted the political class’s all-purpose form of absolution: “Everybody does it.”

But everybody doesn’t do it. McConnell is trying to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act using methods completely at odds with how the law was originally brought to life seven years ago. The ACA was debated for more than a year and went through an elaborate hearing and amendment process, including some changes urged by Republicans.

By contrast, the bill Senate Republicans are writing is being held as close as the nuclear codes. In the meantime, President Trump and his administration (including, most recently, Attorney General Jeff “I don’t recall” Sessions) keep providing McConnell excellent cover as their assorted outrages dominate the news and deflect attention from Capitol Hill. The wrecking squad works in the shadows knowing that if the public were given time to absorb the damage in store for millions of Americans, the pushback would be enormous.

Cleverly, Senate Republicans say their coverage-destruction bill will be better than the one Speaker Paul Ryan pushed through the House. (Trump helpfully described the House measure as “mean” during a meeting Tuesday with Republican senators.) Well, great, and a Category 4 hurricane is a bit less harrowing than a Category 5. Most of us would prefer to avoid both.

One of the so-called “improvements” that has leaked out: People will be thrown off Medicaid more slowly under McConnellcare than under Ryancare. But they’ll still be thrown off, and to pay for this reprieve, the Senate would reportedly include additional cuts to Medicaid elsewhere. To finance all their tax cuts for the rich, Republicans will have to gut insurance for a lot of people one way or another.

Why all the secrecy? McConnell is trying to keep the pressure off the many Republican senators who have offered pledges of varying degrees of specificity to protect Medicaid and other aspects of the ACA that benefit their constituents.

They include Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona, both up for re-election next year, as well as Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. So far, Susan Collins of Maine has stood honorably as one of her party’s firmest skeptics of this fiasco-in-the-making, but even she seems to be wobbling.

Since Democrats have 48 votes against dismantling the existing law, any three Republican senators could put a stop to this fantastically anti-democratic process. They could walk into McConnell’s office and say they’ll oppose any bill that is not made public for at least a month of real scrutiny and discussion. Is this too much to ask of legislation that could threaten the health care of countless Americans (the exact number being unknowable because the bill’s architects won’t admit to what they’re doing)?

There is work here for activists, politicians and the media. Activists must understand that they have less time to save the Affordable Care Act than they might think. Democratic Senators must take every opportunity to force this issue to the fore. Disruption in the face of this violation of legislative norms is no vice.

As for the media, Jacob Leibenluft, a former Obama administration official, described the problem well in an interview: “If you don’t have hearings, and you don’t have big moments for television, you don’t have bandwidth for coverage.” Leibenluft, now at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says individual reporters on the health care beat are doing good work, but their stories are getting limited attention.

He added: “I hate to think that looking back on this period, we’ll realize that the most regressive piece of social legislation in modern American history was passed, and no one was paying attention.”

We know that the Trump/Russia story will still be there in a month. We cannot say the same about the health insurance millions of Americans count on. By then, it may be on the road to extinction.

By E.J. Dionne Jr./Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Confromist