Trump Pittsburgh visit: 11 Jewish leaders push back against president after synagogue shooting

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A group of Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh demanded Trump denounce white nationalism and stop targeting minorities before he visits.

More than 35,000 people have signed an open letter to President Trump from the leaders of a Pittsburgh-based Jewish group who say the president will not be welcome in the city unless he denounces white nationalism and stops “targeting” minorities after a mass shooting Saturday at a local synagogue left 11 dead.

Nevertheless, the White House announced Trump would travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, ignoring the letter as well as a plea from Pittsburgh’s mayor that the president at least refrain from visiting “while we are burying the dead.” The first of the funerals for the 11 shooting victims is expected to take place Tuesday.

The open letter, which was published and shared on Sunday, was written by 11 members of the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc, a national organization for progressive Jews focused on social justice, following what is being called the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. The shooting at Tree of Life synagogue also left several people injured, including law enforcement.

More from the Washington Post

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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The Fascists Are Coming for Your Social Security and Medicare

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The billionaire fascists are coming for your Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And they’re openly bragging about it.

Right after Trump’s election, back in December of 2016, Newt Gingrich openly bragged at the Heritage Foundation that the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress were going to “break out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt model.” That “model,” of course, created what we today refer to as “the middle class.”

This week Mitch McConnell confirmed Gingrich’s prophecy, using the huge deficits created by Trump’s billionaire tax cuts as an excuse to destroy “entitlement” programs.

“I think it would be safe to say that the single biggest disappointment of my time in Congress has been our failure to address the entitlement issue, and it’s a shame, because now the Democrats are promising Medicare for All,” McConnell told Bloomberg. He added, “[W]e’re talking about Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.”

These programs, along with free public education and progressive taxation, are the core drivers and maintainers of the American middle class. History shows that without a strong middle class, democracy itself collapses, and fascism is the next step down a long and terrible road.

Ever since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have been working overtime to kneecap institutions that support the American middle class. And, as any working-class family can tell you, the GOP has had some substantial successes, particularly in shifting both income and political power away from voters and toward billionaires and transnational corporations.

More from Thom Hartmann @ Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

You Don’t Have to Screw People Over to Survive How Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap is healing people and the planet—one label at a time.

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Photo Credit: Westin Dodger, Wikimedia

“You don’t have to fuck people over to survive” are wise words I once heard radical comic book artist Seth Tobocman chant, repeatedly. It’s also the title of one of his books. Those words have stayed with me, and I’m a bit surprised more people don’t echo that sentiment.

But one man—and his family business—does.

Dr. Bronner’s.

You might have seen Dr. Bronner’s soap for sale at your local health food store. The labels are legendary, and plenty of look-alikes have popped up, but only Dr. Bronner’s has the All One! manifesto written in tiny font on the label.

This manifesto—principles of uniting humanity—is the reason for the soap. In other words, the soap is used to sell the label, not the other way around.

“We view our commerce, Dr. Bronner’s soap company, solely in terms of promoting Dr. Bronner’s vision of a peaceful, united world across religious and ethnic divides,” says David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s and the family’s fifth-generation soap maker. His grandfather was Dr. Emil Bronner, whose manifesto is on the label.

In keeping with his grandfather’s ethos, the company caps salary at 5:1, meaning the highest-paid people in the company cannot make more than five times the lowest-paid employee.

To them, All One! means all the people who touch all of the ingredients in all of Dr. Bronner’s products are respected, throughout the supply chain, from farm to market. Dr. Bronner’s treats all with dignity, and strives to ensure they aren’t exploited.

In modern commodity markets, says David, workers and farmers have no visibility. The conditions they work in and the destructive environments they are subjected to are hidden. Children could be picking the coconuts that are used in your coconut oil, but the way the commodity market works, you’d never know it, he says. Coconut oil brokers, he adds, are exploitative. Those exploitative conditions exist in every prospect of the commodities used in everyday products.

Dr. Bronner’s practices what they preach, striving to be truly fair trade across their business and supply chain—fair in their own supply chain, to their own workers, and to the farmers and their suppliers.

Each ingredient of every product has a cool story, says David. From their olive oil procured in both Israel and from the West Bank of Palestine, the family and company stay aligned with their principles across religious, ethnic, and political walls. David stresses the company is not anti-Israel—founder Dr. Bronner’s parents were killed at Auschwitz and Theresienstadt—but does not support Israeli expansionist policy. He calls the Israeli military occupation “B.S.” that prevents many Palestinian businesses from entering the same markets Israel has the benefit of accessing. Through their olive oil partnerships with Canaan Fair Trade in Palestine and Ecogreen in Israel, they are fostering peace and “Growing hope in the Holy Land.”

Beyond the Middle East, the California-based Dr. Bronner’s is dedicated to the causes they support and believe in, including fair trade, drug policy reform, fair wages, hemp and regenerative fiber, and sustainable, organic cannabis.

They procure coconut oil with relief agencies in Sri Lanka, palm oil from farmers in Ghana. They support the Fair World Project. They’re planning for a new regenerative organic certification—one that will identify products adhering to the best practices for soil health, fair labor, and animal welfare, all into one certification. A “truly holistic certification,” David calls it. After all, “‘Organic’ doesn’t have a fair labor component.”

There’s no reason to make products and their producers “go to hell and back” just to get a product to market, he says.

From salary caps to Samoan coconut farmers, that’s a lot of global good to finance. Dr. Bronner’s soap might scare consumers with the price tag at first—$10-$15+ for a 32-ounce bottle of liquid soap. “It’s not a premium, but people will pay more,” says David, when they know the company is treating its employees and its supply chain fairly. And consumers do, often exhibiting a brand loyalty tradition that has gone on for decades. What’s remarkable is that Dr. Bronner’s has done it without advertising—you might have noticed you’ve never seen or heard a television commercial or website banner ad or radio ad for Dr. Bronner’s soap. That’s because they don’t generally use traditional advertisements—though their political activism has made media waves and their advertorials have caused some controversy.

Beyond the All-One! message, David has another message he wants people to understand: “You can succeed doing the right thing. You don’t have to screw over your workers.”

“It’s really important,” he adds, “to demonstrate you can do the right thing and succeed.”

So you really don’t have to fuck people over to survive. In fact, following Bronner’s lead, you can prosper, pay fair wages, facilitate fair trade, and call for doing the right thing politically, like ending the drug war.

Perhaps someone should tell that to Jeff Bezos. Or whatever billionaire seems to be pushing your community back into the Dark Ages.

By Valerie Vande Panne / Independent Media Institute

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Report: Russian trolls stoked NFL anthem controversy with more than 12K mostly pro-Trump tweets

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Much of the online discord around NFL player protests was planted by Russian Twitter trolls supporting President Donald Trump’s agenda. (Getty)

Much of the online ire in the wake of a Donald Trump rant against NFL players kneeling during the national anthem was provided courtesy of Russian Twitter trolls, the Wall Street Journal reports.

At a 2017 rally in Huntsville, Alabama, President Trump railed against players protesting social justice issues during the national anthem, urging NFL owners to “get that son of a bitch off the field right now.”

NFL protest tweets spiked after Trump speech

That rally took place on Sept. 22. According to the WSJ, 24 Twitter accounts tweeted “VIDEO: Trump SHREDS NFL Anthem Protesters!” on Sept. 23 almost simultaneously.

Thousands of tweets criticizing player protests followed in the ensuing days. Overall, from 2014 through 2018, more than 12,000 tweets from 491 accounts linked to the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency were sent, with most of them critical of protests, according to a Clemson study cited in the WSJ report.

Study: 87 percent of tweets critical of protest message

The study concluded that 87 percent of those tweets had a conservative-leaning message often labeling protesting players as unpatriotic or criticizing the NFL for its handling of the situation. The accounts cited in the report have been shut down by Twitter after a congressional investigation established their link to Internet Research Agency.

“You want to reach your average American, which is clearly their goal?” Clemson associate professor Darren Linvill asked. “Then talk about football.”

Clemson researchers believe that other accounts linked to Internet Research Agency have surfaced to fan the flames of other controversial sports topics like Colin Kaepernick’s Nike campaign and the U.S. Open tennis final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.

By Jason Owens/YahooSports

Posted by The NON-Conformist

It’s Official: 2018 Federal Deficit Largest Since 2012 The federal government spent $790 billion more than it taxed during fiscal year 2018. The deficit is about to get worse. Much worse.

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The federal government finished the 2018 fiscal year—it ended on September 30—a whopping $779 billion in the red, the largest annual budget deficit since 2012.

The current fiscal year is likely to see an even larger deficit, potentially in excess of $1 trillion.

The Treasury Department’s final data for the 2018 fiscal year, released Monday, shows that the deficit was driven by a combination of higher spending and additional borrowing. The latter was necessary to finance the former, of course, though last year’s tax cuts contributed to the widening gap between how much money the federal government takes in and how much it spends.

Tax revenues were flat during 2018 and corporate tax collections fell by $76 billion, Treasury reported.

On it’s own, the fact that American companies were able to keep $76 billion out of the government’s hands is cause for celebration. Those funds will certainly be put to more productive uses because they won’t be funneled to Washington. Trump’s corporate tax cuts brought the United States in line with the rest of the world, thereby increasing U.S. competitiveness in a global market.

But tax cuts without spending cuts are a recipe for disaster. While the Treasury’s data for fiscal year 2018 looks backwards, the trajectory for the future is the bigger story.

The $779 billion deficit for fiscal year 2018 was up 17 percent from the $666 billion deficit recorded in fiscal year 2017. The data show that the deficit is growing faster than the economy as a whole. In 2017, the federal deficit was equal to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), but grew to 3.9 percent of GDP in 2018.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, current policies have the United States on course for a $2 trillion deficit before the end of the next decade.

“It’s an unsustainable fiscal course that will lead us to debt overtaking the size of the entire economy in as soon as a decade, and not long after topping all-time highs as a share of the economy not seen since World War II,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates for balancing the budget, in a statement.

Driven by old-age entitlements and surfing on a wave of retiring boomers, the federal government will continue to pile on more debt unless serious structural reforms are undertaken. A new analysis from longtime congressional budget aide Brian Riedl, now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a free market think tank, shows that Social Security and Medicare will run a $100 trillion deficit over the next 30 years. With the country already facing a national debt of more than $20 trillion, massive annual deficits in future years are likely to drive-up the cost of borrowing and cause America’s already astronomical debt to grow at a faster pace, he warns.

That this latest increase in the deficit happened during a period when Republicans had full control of the federal government reveals that they were never very serious about balancing the budget. Even now, they refuse to recognize the problem. Democrats, meanwhile, are promising to spend even more on entitlements, if and when they return to power.

Almost nothing about the current state of affairs in Washington suggests that policy makers are prepared to deal with this looming catastrophe. Today’s news is a reminder that the reckoning is coming, regardless of whether our elected officials are ready for it.

By Eric Boehm/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

What the Black Men Who Identify With Brett Kavanaugh Are Missing

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On Tuesday night, I was in an auditorium with 100 black men in the city of Baltimore, when the subject pivoted to Brett Kavanaugh. I expected to hear frustration that the sexual-assault allegations against him had failed to derail his Supreme Court appointment. Instead, I encountered sympathy. One man stood up and asked, passionately, “What happened to due process?” He was met with a smattering of applause, and an array of head nods.

If you think Kavanaugh receiving some measure of support from black men in inner-city Baltimore is as strange as Taylor Swift suddenly feeling the need to become a modern-day Fannie Lou Hamer, then brace yourself: The caping for Kavanaugh does make a twisted kind of sense. Countless times, black men have had to witness the careers and reputations of other black men ruthlessly destroyed because of unproved rape and sexual-assault accusations. And as that Baltimore audience member also argued, if the claims were made by a white woman, expect the damage to be triple.

 

More from Jemele Hill @The Atlantic

Posted by Libergirl

What is ‘stop-and-frisk’ — and why does President Trump want it to happen in Chicago?

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President Donald Trump said at a police conference on Monday that Chicago should implement a “stop-and-frisk” law to help cut down on crime.

“The crime spree has a terrible blight on that city, and we will do everything possible to get it done,” Trump said at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention in Florida, according to ABC. “It works and it was meant for problems like Chicago. It was meant for it. Stop and frisk.”

But just what is the law — and why do some see it as racist?

And why do others see it as just being tough on crime?

What is stop-and-frisk?

Stop-and-frisk describes a divisive policy in New York City that allowed officers to stop anyone they believed “committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor” if they have a “reasonable suspicion,” The Washington Post wrote.

Some other states have adopted “stop and identify” laws that require people who are detained by police to identify themselves if an officer has reasonable suspicion that they were involved in a crime.

But the law in New York City, first implemented in 1999, gained nationwide attention — and Trump hailed the city as proof that the policy can cut down on crime.

“Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York City had a very strong program of ‘stop and frisk,’ and it went from an unacceptably dangerous city to one of the safest cities in the country,” Trump said Monday, according to ABC. “And I think the safest big city in the country. So it works.”

In New York City, more than 500,000 people were stopped each year from 2008 to 2012 — with more than 5 million stopped since 2002, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.

So, did it work in New York City?

It depends on whom you ask, and what you define as “work.”

Supporters of the law will tell you that the stop-and-frisk policy can help take guns off the streets. As reported by Forbes, the New York Police Department said the policy led to the recovery of 770 guns in 2011 alone. That meant a gun was found 1.9 percent of the time during a stop.

And the following year, 715 guns were found in New York City because of the policy, according to FiveThirtyEight. As noted by the outlet, data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that 18 percent of all guns seized in 2012 in New York City were found during a stop-and-frisk session.

Data also show violent crimes and murders decreased along with the implementation of stop-and-frisk in New York City, according to The Washington Post.

Critics point out that the rate of crime and murder remained level even after a federal judge ruled the city’s specific stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional in 2013, according to The Washington Post.

But Heather Mac Donald, a political commentator, argued in The Wall Street Journal that “proactive policing” under the law led to a decrease of murders by nearly 80 percent.

What are the critiques of stop-and-frisk?

Many point to apparent racial profiling in who gets stopped.

In 2011, for example, 685,724 people were stop-and-frisked, according to data from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Of those people, 88 percent were found to be innocent. Overall, just 9 percent of those stopped were white, while 53 percent were black and 34 were Hispanic. The 2010 census reported that 33 percent of New York City residents are white, while 26 percent are black and another 26 percent are Hispanic.

Black people make up a majority of those stopped for every year there is data, while white people barely make up 10 percent of those stopped on average. In a report, Jeffrey Fagan, from Columbia Law School, examined police data on stop-and-frisk and found that race has a “marginal influence” on who gets stopped — even when accounting for “the social and economic characteristics” of the area.

Fagan also said there is little evidence that the policy helped prevent crime or reduce murders.

“Anyone who says we know this is bringing the crime rate down is really making it up,” Fagan told The Washington Post in an interview.

Why was New York City’s stop-and-frisk law ruled unconstitutional?

For the same reason as Fagan’s concerns.

Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in 2013 that the law violated the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens, and that the practice was “racially discriminatory” because of the disproportionate numbers of people of color stopped by police because of it, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights.

After her ruling, the number of police stops of people of color dropped to 18,449 in 2015 — even though that number was just more than 160,000 in 2013, according to The New York Civil Liberties Union.

This is a 96 percent decrease from the height in 2011 of more than 600,000 stops,” Scheindlin wrote in the National Black Law Journal in 2016. “And what has happened with crime statistics in the meantime? They have remained steady!

“The enormous decrease in stops has clearly not caused an upsurge in crime despite alarmist predictions by our former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley,” she continued.

By Josh Magness/MiamiHerald
Posted by The NON-Conformist

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