Climb Down From the Summit of Hostile Propaganda

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Throughout the day before the summit in Helsinki, the lead story on the New York Times home page stayed the same: “Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead.” The Sunday headline was in harmony with the tone of U.S. news coverage overall. As for media commentary, the Washington Post was in the dominant groove as it editorialized that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is “an implacably hostile foreign adversary.”

 

Image: Matterhorn via Wikipedia

Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme. Mainline U.S. journalists and top Democrats often bait President Trump in zero-sum terms. No doubt Hillary Clinton thought she was sending out an applause line in her tweet Sunday night: “Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”

Since early 2017, the U.S. mass media have laid it on thick with the rough political equivalent of a painting technique known as chiaroscuro – “the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition,” in the words of Wikipedia. The Russiagate frenzy is largely about punching up contrasts between the United States (angelic and victimized) and Russia (sinister and victimizer).

Often the biggest lies involve what remains unsaid. For instance, U.S. media rarely mention such key matters as the promise-breaking huge expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the brazen U.S. intervention in Russia’s pivotal 1996 presidential election, or the U.S. government’s 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, or the more than 800 U.S. military bases overseas — in contrast to Russia’s nine.

More from Normon Solomon @ Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

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We can’t blame Trump and the Republicans alone for the Supreme Court. Democrats had a big hand in it too.

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The Supreme Court has been around as long as the Constitution itself, more than two centuries now. Since the Warren court of the 1950s, Republicans have been open about their intention to pack it with judges who will repeal birth control, civil rights, labor rights, minimum wages, environmental regulation and most of the 20th century. Democrats, if they were ever a party of the people, as opposed to another party of the elite, have had sixty-some years to craft their own strategy to thwart Republicans. Democratic elected officials have never done this because of course they have more in common with their elite Republican counterparts than they do with the unwashed masses who vote Democratic, and who can always be rallied with the cynical cry that only Democrats can save them from an evil Republican Supreme Court.

Back in 2005 the second President Bush nominated John Roberts as chief justice. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. The most celebrated, widely quoted, and closely watched Democrat on the judiciary committee was the acclaimed constitutional scholar and freshman from Illinois, Barack Obama. These were the guys on point for Democrats that season.

John Roberts had a long history of hostility to birth control, to voting rights, to organized labor, black and brown people, anti-discrimination laws and to anything else which might mitigate or restrain the rule of the rich in even the smallest degree. As a DC circuit court judge he “legalized” after the fact Bush’s illegitimate detention and torture at offshore black sites. As a private attorney he represented mining companies defending the horrifically destructive practice of mountaintop removal, and he was part of the Bush V. Gore legal team which succeeded in letting the Supreme Court overrule the ongoing tally of votes in Florida and declare Bush the winner. Roberts was also a board member of the rabidly right wing Federalist Society, which seeks to overturn virtually all civil rights and environmental law, and all regulation of so-called “free markets” whatsoever.

Republican leaning corporate media rejoiced, saying they were finally gonna get what they wanted. Environmental, voting rights and civil rights organizations sounded the alarm, but to little avail. Elected Democrats, their supposed champions, along with Democrat-leaning corporate media whined that there was insufficient evidence of Roberts’ rightward leanings to invest much effort in stopping his ascent to the court. Bush was a hugely unpopular president, and congressional Democrat candidates across the country were campaigning not on local issues, but against the president, a winning strategy for the following year as it turned out.

Ranking Democrat John Kerry and Barack Obama were urged to filibuster the Roberts nomination. They pretended to entertain the idea a while, but did not. Kerry and Obama failed to oppose the Roberts nomination in committee, where they could have imposed substantial roadblocks and opened an ongoing debate about the sinister role of the corporate funded Federalist Society. They voted against the nomination on the Senate floor, where it made no difference, and John Roberts got on the Supreme Court with no serious opposition.

The next summer, in 2006 when Bush nominated Sam Alito to the Supreme Court the exercise was repeated. Samuel Alito had an even more balls-out reputation as an opponent of civil and human rights. Republicans exulted while lawyerly Democrats and their media mouthpieces claimed there were no smoking guns to tell whether Alito was actually the kind of judge Republicans claimed he was. Kerry and Obama, both lawyers of course were urged again to vigorously oppose the nomination in committee, and above all to make Alito’s membership in the Federalist Society a major point in opposing him and the entire wave of Republican judges it vets and spawns for local benches and the federal judiciary.

The Federalist Society was founded during the first term of Ronald Reagan in 1982, and immediately attracted lavish funding from a galaxy of right wing foundations, deep corporate pockets and wealthy individuals including the Walton Family Foundation, the Koch Brothers, the Scaife, Coors and Heritage Foundations. It swiftly established chapters in law schools across the country and became the go-to portal for young Republican lawyers on the make. The Federalist society also has working groups of law school professors and groups where practicing attorneys and prominent jurists meet and associate with law students, and in which legal arguments for new corporate rights are developed, rehearsed and fine tuned. For about a generation now, practically no Republican attorney has snagged a spot on state or federal judicial or prosecutorial benches, or appointed to federal agencies without the stamp of the Federalist Society on his or her resume.

As the two Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary, Kerry and Obama were urged again and again by civil rights, environmental groups, by labor unions – by all the advocacy groups which supposedly represent the Democratic party’s base voters, to stall, to delay and to vigorously oppose the Alito nomination. By the summer of 2006 it was clear that Democrats would take back the house in November, and possibly the Senate as well. This time, Kerry and Obama said they were considering filibustering the nomination. But they didn’t, and even worse, they refused to question Sam Alito on his association with the Federalist Society, which might have made that organization’s stranglehold on Republican prosecutorial and judicial nominees an ongoing issue.

After perfunctory questioning, Kerry, Obama and their committee they passed Alito out to the full Senate where he was confirmed with no significant opposition. To this day, the corporate funded Federalist Society is still choosing a huge share of judges and prosecutors.

Let’s be clear… the courts in the US were never intended to be a small d democratic institution. The founding fathers were quite open about their intention to insulate judges from the will of the electorate, even when only white men with substantial property were allowed to vote. From the nation’s beginning, its courts have always been an elite institution, staffed by and answerable to elites, not to the people. And the US elite is thoroughly bipartisan. Vigorous Democratic opposition to Federalist Society nominees a dozen years ago by leading Democrats, most notably by then senators Barack Obama and John Kerry might have made kept dozens or hundreds of right wing judges off the bench and made it impossible for Trump to nominate his latest corporate mouthpiece. It didn’t happen because elite Democrats have far more in common with elite Republicans than they do with mere Democratic voters.

So the answer to Democrat excuse makers who sagely assure us that elections DO make a difference is yeah, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. But fighting, resisting injustice, exploitation and oppression always makes a difference. Too bad that’s simply NOT what Democratic elected officials actually DO.

By Bruce A. Dixon/BAR

Posted by The NON Conformist

Dems Are Once Again Poised to Fumble Away a Must Win Election

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Jeff Merkley

IMAGE: Whowhatwhy.org

 

If the Democrats want to win control of the House in the fall, they need to have a plan, a positive vision, and a focus on issues that directly affect Americans. Not surprisingly, they are failing on all fronts.

I cover US politics for a living and, with less than five months to go before the crucial midterm election that will determine whether American voters will impose some checks on President Donald Trump, I couldn’t tell you what the Democrats’ platform is… or their plan for winning this November.

Instead of coming up with policies that will change the lives of Americans in a meaningful way — as well as a strategy of telling voters about them — they keep getting sucked into the Trump trap.

The president will do or say something that is so ridiculous or reprehensible that Democrats are sure that, this time, the public will surely realize that he is a know-nothing liar and demagogue who is destroying the US from within.

More from Klaus Marre and Donkeyhotey @ Whowhatwhy.org

 

Posted by Libergirl

Huckabee Sanders Defends Ripping Children From Parents, Because It’s “Very Biblical to Enforce the Law”

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Asked to comment on remarks made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier in the day about how the Trump administration’s policy of ripping children out of the arms of their immigrant parents is somehow justified by the Christian Bible, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday afternoon said she could not respond specifically to the AG’s claims but said “it is very biblical to enforce the law.”

“That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible,” Huckabee Sanders said in response to the question by CNN’s Jim Acosta as she appeared to glance at notes on her podium.

More from Common Dreams

Posted by Libergirl

Why Aren’t Liberals Celebrating Higher Gas Prices? It’s What They Want Democrats have spent the past two decades advocating for policies that artificially spike fossil fuel prices.

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With consumer confidence at a 17-year high and economic prospects looking relatively strong, congressional Democrats have taken to grousing about the gas pump as a midterm strategy. “These higher oil prices are translating directly to soaring gas prices,” declared Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “something we know disproportionately hurts middle- and lower-income people.”

If this is true, then why have Democrats spent the past two decades advocating for policies that artificially spike fossil fuel prices? If higher energy costs hurt Americans—and thank you, senator, for conceding this point—why have liberals favored increasing gas taxes, inhibiting exploration for fossil fuels (including a ban on fracking for less environmentally damaging gas in a number of places), and capping imports? If higher gas prices disproportionately impact the working class and poor, then why do Democrats push for national schemes designed to create false demand through a fabricated marketplace?

Not a single reporter asked the Democrats who were performing at a press conference in front of an Exxon filling station the other day if higher gas prices might incentivize Americans to switch to subsidized “alternative” energy sources—even though this happens to be the prevailing theory driving much of their energy policy. Shouldn’t Democrats be celebrating the fact that fewer Americans were driving on Memorial Day? I thought we were facing an apocalyptic situation here.

Schumer conveniently blamed the United States’ exiting of the Iran nuclear deal for the spike—an agreement he supposedly opposed. Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, a self-styled “climate hawk,” claimed, “There’s a straight line between Trump’s policies and the price of gasoline.” We can only now assume he believes the prevalence of cheap fossil fuels is imperative in the effort to alleviate poverty and create wealth. I concur. But don’t worry about Iran, senator; there’s plenty of oil elsewhere.

Politico maintains that Democrats have stolen a page from the “GOP playbook to attack Trump,” which is true, though the difference is that Republicans generally support proposals that make gas more affordable. The Obama administration, for example, benefited greatly from a recalcitrant GOP Congress’s committed obstruction of an untold number of terrible initiatives. We should recall that the energy secretary openly wrestled with ways “to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” When Obama was asked in 2008 if the $4-a-gallon gas prices at the time were beneficial for the American economy, the presidential candidate prevaricated, saying, “I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment.”

What is the gradual adjustment Democrats prefer today? A slow and steady move to $7? Right now U.S. gas prices are only a fraction of those in European nations, and yet Democrats acted as if Trump had triggered Armageddon when he decided to leave the Paris climate agreement. Do you want us to follow Norway’s lead or not?

Democrats had opposed the opening of pipeline projects, of new drilling, and allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to transform from a regulatory agency that was protecting the environment to a place where the administration could implement backdoor legislation that American voters had rejected. If Democrats hadn’t lost power in 2010, we might be living with those $4 per gallon prices today.

To understand how this policy manifests, just look at California, where gas prices are consistently among the highest in the nation—despite the fact that there are no constraining geographic or economic impediments to cheap energy. Last year, the legislature pushed through another gas tax (and an even larger one on diesel) and extra “fees” to help make one of the most regressive energy policies in the country even more onerous and expensive.

Now, obviously the entire spectacle is for show. Schumer says, “It’s time for the president to buck his oil executive buddies,” because lots of ignorant voters probably believe that the price of crude oil can be controlled by a few nefarious CEOs. The only question I have is: Why don’t these profit-mongering oligarchs keep prices high all the time?

Of course, in the real world, summertime typically brings a spike in prices—and despite Schumer’s forecast of “soaring gas prices,” prices are already dropping again. Given the fungibility of commodities and the track record of the Middle East, we’ll likely always have to deal with some painful fluctuations in the price of energy, regardless of what we do at home. But relying on market forces has, by every conceivable measurement, had a better track record than price controls.

So while Democrats have learned to be less open with their intentions, the policies speak for themselves. What do they plan on doing about oil prices when they win the election? Yell at some executives? Why doesn’t anyone with access ask these concerned senators if they believe cheap fossil fuels is preferable? Or do they still support policies that spike energy prices on purpose?

By David Harsanyi/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Black women candidates feel slighted by Democrats

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An illustration of a donkey blindfolded

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

There are at least 43 Democratic black women running as challengers for U.S. House seats, but only one — Lauren Underwood of Illinois — has the backing of the national campaign organization.

Why it matters: Black women are a powerful voting bloc for the Democratic Party as they work to capture the House and Senate. In 2016, 94% of black women voted for Clinton over Trump. In Alabama’s special election, they helped Doug Jones win — 98% of them voted for him, compared to just 34% of white women. Now they’re running for office in overwhelming numbers, but some feel the party isn’t investing in them.

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The big picture: Right now, there are only 19 black women serving in Congress. Only 67 women of color overall have been members of Congress since 1964.

Be smart: The conversation about the party’s support of the black community — both as voters and candidates — is not going away any time soon. Just look at Cynthia Nixon’s gubernatorial campaign in New York, where she’s getting headlines like “Cynthia Nixon’s Political Run Should Be Taken Seriously Because She Takes Black Voters Seriously.”

Black women running say their enthusiasm isn’t matched by groups like the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Even the Congressional Black Caucus is backing Michael Capuano, the Democratic incumbent in Massachusetts’ 7th district, over his challenger Ayanna Pressley, who’s a black woman.

  • There’s been a focus on the progressive vs. moderate fight within the Democratic Party, making some feel overlooked. “I think some of the other groups [like progressives] have gotten more attention than any racial group,” Kimberly Hill Knott, who’s running for Congress in Michigan, told Axios. I don’t hear the national party talking about an urban agenda.”
  • But one progressive candidate who is also black, Kerri Harris, who’s running for U.S. Senate in Delaware, said she’s had no recognition from the party. “They can keep pretending like we don’t exist or come out against us as candidates, but they’ll realize the best way to uphold our Democracy is to encourage it.”

One big challenge: Politics is driven by money. If you’re not raising a lot of it, you’re viewed as unelectable. But raising money as a first-time candidate and a black woman is often half the battle, according to the candidates interviewed by Axios.

“These are organizations that are meant to help make sure black interests are represented and yet everybody is looking at who’s more electable based on money.”
— Alabama congressional candidate Audri Scott Williams

The other side: While some candidates want more from the national party, black women were praised at the DNC’s annual Women’s Leadership Forum this year, with Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters and DNC Vice Chair Grace Meng calling them the “backbone” of the party.

  • The DNC’s Political and Organizing Director Amanda Brown Lierman said in a statement: “While the DNC does not endorse in contested primaries, we work with our state parties to make sure first-time candidates have the tools and information they need.” She added: “African-American women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we know we can’t take them for granted. That’s why we’ve made meaningful investments in our state parties in order to turn out and engage women of color.”
  • The DCCC didn’t address the number of black women on their Red to Blue list, but said they’ll keep working on diversity of candidates because it’s “crucial to winning back the House.” DCCC spokesman Kamau Marshall added: “The DCCC is proud to support the historic number of women and African American candidates running for Congress, who will bring a wealth of knowledge and cultural competence to the political table for Democrats.”

By the numbers: A recent collection of polls (from the Associated Press/NORC Center and CBS News) shows the diversity among black voters. Only 1% identify as Republicans, 92% disapprove of President Trump, and the 59% who identify as Democrats is smaller than the percentage of black voters who actually vote for Democratic candidates.

The bottom line: Black women candidates want more from the Democratic Party, but Democrats might not have to worry much about how they’ll vote in 2018 or 2020.

By Alexi McCammond/Axios

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Stamping Out Hunger…No Stomping on Hunger!!!

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I lived in the woods north of Santa Cruz, CA. for part of the summer in 1978.  The rest of those five or six months (it was California) I either lived on the beaches north of the town or was on the road.  Living was cheap and living was easy.  Mostly, my friends and I had to stay a couple steps ahead of the cops and away from the straight and rich white folks.  We weren’t alone in that.  I lived off of fifty bucks worth of food stamps per month and money I made doing odd jobs.

Image result for food stamps

Image: ABC11

Then it was off to the grocery store and then back to the camp in the woods or on the beach.  Since fifty dollars didn’t really cover a person’s food costs even then (and even though we ate lots of beans, rice, cheese and potatoes), we usually pooled our resources with other folks living in the encampments, conjuring up some dandy meals of the aforementioned foods.  Spices can work wonders, as any cook knows.

More from CounterPunch News

Posted by Libergirl

 

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