Prison guards & vaccines

Prison Guards Refuse Vaccines, Prisoners Pay The Price

Ella Fassler, Truthout

Tensions are reaching a boiling point as large swaths of prison guards continue to refuse COVID-19 vaccines despite mandates in some states for public sector employees. Vaccination rates for prison staff members range from 23 percent in Alabama to 78 percent in Colorado, and average 55 percent amongst jurisdictions that have reported data.

The disputes are coming to a head during a raging pandemic where, at the time of publishing, roughly 1,250 people are dying from COVID-19 each day in the United States. At least 2,885 incarcerated people and 315 staff members in prisons and jails have died from the virus.

Prison guards & vaccines
Credit: Pew https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2016/03/01/many-states-face-dire-shortage-of-prison-guards
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Israeli troops shut down Palestinian human rights organization

Israel Shuts Down Palestinian Human Rights NGO's

By Lubna Masarwa & Daniel Hilton, Middle East Eye

[The story of Israel declaring human rights NGO’s to be ‘terrorist’ organizations deserves attention. On the one hand, Israel maintains a decade long occupation enforced through violent means. On the other, nonviolent efforts to oppose the occupation are also suppressed and criminalized. It’s almost as if Israel just wants to continue its domination of the Palestinian people regardless of how they struggle to end it. — Progressive Hub]

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Friday declared six Palestinian civil society groups as terrorist organisations, accusing them of militant links in a move condemned by various human rights defenders.

The six include the prominent advocacy groups Addameer, which supports Palestinian political prisoners, and Al-Haq, a human rights organisation that works with the United Nations. Also listed are the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, the Bisan Centre for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and Defense for Children International – Palestine.

In a statement, Gantz’s office said they are “part of a network of organisations operating under cover in the international arena” on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist resistance group.

Israeli troops shut down Palestinian human rights organization
Credit: Defense of Children International - Palestine
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Colin Powell

Colin Powell, Who Helped George W. Bush Lie Nation Into Iraq War, Dead at 84

Jon Queally, Common Dreams

Colin Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of State who helped President George W. Bush under whom he served to sell the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the United Nations and the American people, has died at the age of 84.

According to the New York Times, “He died of complications from Covid-19, his family said in a statement. He was fully vaccinated and was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, his family said.”

In 2003, Powell, a retired four-star U.S. Army General who also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs before becoming the nation’s top diplomat under Bush, made the now infamous presentation to the U.N. Security Council in which he claimed that the Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein was hiding a secret chemical weapons program from the international community and supporting international terrorists following the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

Powell later claimed that the testimony he gave in 2003 was a “great intelligence failure,” but critics—including his chief of staff at the time, Lawrence Wilkerson—said the speech was significant both for its dishonesty and that Powell’s “gravitas” was a crucial “part of the two-year-long effort by the Bush administration to get Americans on the war wagon.”

Colin Powell
Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo/24107025430

“That effort,” Wilkerson wrote in 2018, “led to a war of choice with Iraq—one that resulted in catastrophic losses for the region and the United States-led coalition, and that destabilized the entire Middle East.”

In a 2018 column detailing what the former Secretary of State knew and was saying privately at the same time he was selling the Iraq invasion to the U.S. public, The Intercept’s John Schwarz wrote that “Powell’s loyalty to Bush extended to being willing to deceive the world: the United Nations, Americans, and the coalition troops about to be sent to kill and die in Iraq. He’s never been held accountable for his actions, and it’s extremely unlikely he ever will be.”


Student debt relief

Tuition Free Community College Is Only A Start

Brendan Rooks, The Nation

Over the course of the Covid pandemic, we have seen one of the largest upward shifts of wealth in recent history. According to Forbes, there were 660 more billionaires in 2021 than the year before. At the same time, enrollment in community colleges and four-year universities plummeted in the United States, with the student debt crisis creating a situation in which low-income communities are hesitant to pursue higher education because of the likelihood of leaving with crippling debt.

In order to stop the student debt crisis and prevent future generations from being condemned to the reality that borrowers face today, we need to adopt a free college system. Such proposals already exist in both the House and Senate, with two of the most notable pieces of prior legislation being Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal’s College for All Act, as well as Senator Brian Schatz and Representative Mark Pocan’s Debt-Free College Act. Such bills would allow for students to obtain a college education without fear of facing a lifetime of debt, while also helping communities that have been historically excluded.

The current budget reconciliation bill being considered by Congress includes two years of free community college, which would be a monumental first step in the fight for free higher education. The plan is a priority for President Biden who has pitched it as a critical component of his Build Back Better plan and sees free community college as part of his economic agenda domestically and abroad. On the campaign trail, Biden noted that “sixty-five out of 100 jobs today require more than a high school degree” and went on to warn that “any country that out-educates us will out-compete us.” According to the White House, the plan would allow nearly 6 million students and workers to earn a degree or credential for free.

Student debt relief
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Private Equity Pioneers Stepping Down After Wreaking Havoc and Getting Rich

Sam Pizzigati, Inequality.org

[It’s just not clear to most Americans how much damage has been caused by the private equity industry. Far from being ‘just another part of Wall Street’ these large and politically connected firms led the way in stripping assets from profitable companies so they could make even more money, faster, regardless of the impact on communities and workers.

As stated down below, “About 12 million Americans, some 7 percent of the nation’s workforce, are now laboring for firms that sit in private equity portfolios. That employment total would be considerably higher, analysts have calculated, had private equity not burst on America’s financial scene. In retail alone, one 2019 study reported, private equity takeovers have cost over 1.3 million U.S. workers their jobs.” This kind of harm to the American people (and not only!) cannot last forever. — Progressive Hub]

The billionaire founders of KKR, America’s first nationally celebrated “private equity” giant, have just announced they’re stepping down as the company’s co-CEOs. Henry Kravis, now 77, and George Roberts, 78, helped found KKR in 1976. They opened up shop with $120,000 in capital to invest. Their KKR portfolio currently holds assets valued not all that far from half a trillion.

Kravis and Roberts also both personally now rank among America’s 100 richest, Roberts with a net worth of $9 billion and his cousin Kravis not far behind with $8.5 billion. In their retirement announcement Monday, they declared themselves supremely “proud of what we have built” and proclaimed that “KKR still has so much potential even 45 years later.”

Global business commentators, predictably enough, have been gushing over Kravis and Roberts this week, extending to the pair all the plaudits the phenomenally rich consider their natural due. The Financial Times, for instance, has marveled that Kravis and Roberts began their illustrious career with one “dazzling insight” and ended it with another. No one has ever, the business journal added, “understood the concept of ‘other people’s money’ better.”

Kravis and Roberts, meanwhile, have of late been trying to show that the “other people” they care about include those not quite as fortunate as they happen to be. Last year, the cousins created a special $50-million KKR fund to support front-line workers struggling their way through the pandemic. And to help support the fund, the pair pledged a chunk of their own 2020 compensation, a gesture totally appropriate, they explained, in the face of a pandemic that’s “wreaking havoc on every country, every industry, every household, and virtually every single person.”

Kravis and Roberts, to be sure, certainly do know havoc. The private equity industry they pioneered has been wreaking massive amounts of it for over four decades now. In one niche of American economic life after another, private equity kingpins like Kravis and Roberts have been hollowing out the hopes of average working people and the communities they call home.

About 12 million Americans, some 7 percent of the nation’s workforce, are now laboring for firms that sit in private equity portfolios. That employment total would be considerably higher, analysts have calculated, had private equity not burst on America’s financial scene. In retail alone, one 2019 study reported, private equity takeovers have cost over 1.3 million U.S. workers their jobs.

Among private equity’s many retail victims: some 33,000 Toys ‘R’ Us workers who lost their jobs when their retail colossus went bankrupt and liquidated in 2018, just over a dozen years after KKR and two other private-equity firms had bought up all of the company’s outstanding shares. That leveraged buyout saddled Toys ‘R’ Us with the massive debt that KKR and its partners had incurred to make the purchase. The burden of that debt, some $400 million a year, fell squarely on workers. They lost jobs, pay, and benefits to private equity’s machinations — as have workers across America’s retail landscape. Of the 14 largest retail bankruptcies since 2012, ten have come at retailers that private equity firms swallowed up.

Last year, the Wall Street Journal identified the nation’s 38 surviving retailers with the weakest credit profiles. Private equity firms owned 27 of them. Between the massive debt private equity has foisted on retailers and the billions in fees and dividends that private equity has extracted from them, notes Jim Baker of the watchdog Private Equity Stakeholder Project, private equity “has made it more difficult” for retailers “to innovate in a changing industry.”

One typical storyline: KKR became retailer Academy Sports’ largest shareholder in 2011, then paid itself $900 million in dividends from Academy Sports Health over the next four years. A year ago, in April, Academy Sports furloughed a “substantial number” of its employees. Last month, KKR announced plans to sell its entire $853-million stake in the company.

Similar stories abound elsewhere in the U.S. economy. Private equity firms now own 11 percent of the nation’s nursing homes, and this ownership, says 2020 research from three prestigious U.S. business schools, “has coincided with cost cutting, declining quality of care, and increasing violations discovered in government inspections.”

This past February, another study — out of the National Bureau of Economic Research — found that private equity nursing home ownership “increases the short-term mortality” of Medicare patients by 10 percent, a dynamic that over the 12 years studied led to over 20,000 premature deaths.

Private equity firms, observes the American Prospect’s David Dayen, seem to have a particular affection for collecting some of the nation’s “worst businesses,” outfits that range from for-profit colleges and payday lenders to bail companies and detention camps for children.

The latest unsavory addition to private equity portfolios: the fossil fuel industry. Private equity funds, the New York Times reports this week, are “buying up offshore platforms, building new pipelines, and extending lifelines to coal power plants.”

KKR has become a major player in this space, notes a just-released Private Equity Stakeholder Project study, and “recently redoubled on fracking.” Private equity firms like KKR have been picking up fossil-fuel assets on the cheap, exploiting the eagerness of publicly traded oil companies eager to ditch their dirtier holdings in the face of growing public pressure. Sales to private equity firms let Big Oil look more environmentally conscious, but the environment — and the 17.6 million Americans who live within a mile of an active oil or gas well — get no relief.

Through all this wheeling and dealing, of course, private equity dealmakers just continue getting richer. That aggrandizement comes with the territory, with the “business model” that Henry Kravis and George Roberts have done so much to perfect. Characters like Kravis and Roberts — they mostly call themselves “general partners” — have over $7 trillion in assets under management, mostly raised, notes policy analyst Matt Stoller, from wealthy people and institutional investors like pension funds. They pay themselves by the rule of “2 and 20,” charging the enterprises they’ve bought up a 2 percent annual management fee on their assets under management and a 20 percent performance fee on profits above some benchmark level.

This 20 percent fee, in turn, gets treated as a “capital gain” for tax purposes, and this “carried interest” may now be the U.S. tax code’s most notorious loophole, just one of the many ways government policies and inadequate oversight have fueled private equity’s rise.

“For far too long,” as Senator Elizabeth Warren declared two years ago as she introduced reform legislation, “Washington has looked the other way while private equity firms take over companies, load them with debt, strip them of their wealth, and walk away scot-free — leaving workers, consumers, and whole communities to pick up the pieces.”

Warren’s proposed Stop Wall Street Looting Act, if enacted, would stop “private equity firms from stripping cash, real estate and other assets from the companies they take over,” one appraisal notes, and, most importantly, “hold private equity firms responsible for the large debts that they use to buy companies.”

But even the provisions of Warren’s legislation, the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Eileen Appelbaum has told Congress, won’t be enough to fully prevent private equity’s pillaging of Main Street. She’s called for other legislation to halt “particular financial abuses” like the organizing of so-called “wolf packs” to secretly accumulate shares in publicly traded companies.

But even these additional moves might not be enough to tame the animal spirits the Kravis-and-Roberts crew has been visiting upon us. Private equity, argues analyst Matt Stoller, amounts to “a highly ideological social movement that comes out of the modest conglomerate craze of the 1960s” and the junk bond mania that followed soon after. The essential lesson private equity’s pioneers gained from these episodes: Go for it. Get everything you can grab.

Americans have received, in effect, a half-century-long lesson in what happens when you let the rich get ever richer.

This new attitude began emerging, not so coincidentally, when the federal income tax rate on America’s highest incomes began sliding in 1964. The year before, the nation’s richest faced a 91 percent tax on income over $400,000. By the middle of the Reagan years that top rate had dropped down to 28 percent, only rising marginally in all the years since.

In this new, low-tax environment, America’s rich could keep the lion’s share of whatever income streams they could get their hands on. They now had a powerful personal incentive, in other words, to seek out new sources of income and exploit them to the fullest. And exploit they did, employing their new wealth politically to stack the deck in their favor. They soon won the massive deregulation of the rules put in place to stop the nation’s original Robber Barons. They neutered the labor movement and white collar criminal enforcement. They birthed private equity.

Americans have received, in effect, a half-century-long lesson in what happens when you let the rich get ever richer. Our New Deal forbears had a better idea: discourage the accumulation of grand personal fortunes. In 1942, Franklin Roosevelt even proposed what amounted to a “maximum wage,” a 100 percent tax on income over $25,000, about $400,000 in today’s dollars. That 100-percent top rate didn’t become law, but the nation’s top tax rate would hit 94 percent in 1944 before leveling off at 91 percent for most of the next two decades.

Those decades would see the emergence of the first mass middle class society in world history. We’ve been going backwards from that middle-class society ever since, leaving Henry Kravis and George Roberts, in the process, with plenty to smile about.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.


Am I Next

A Black Woman Was Assaulted. Cop's Brutal Attack on Victim Was Even Worse.

By Richard A. Webster, WRKF, WWNO, & Pro Publica

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating a deputy accused of holding a Black woman by her hair and slamming her head repeatedly into the pavement with such force that a witness to the Sept. 20 incident said it ripped several of Shantel Arnold’s braids from her scalp. A 14-second video captured the incident in the New Orleans suburb where, for decades, Black residents have accused the Sheriff’s Office of targeting them.

It was the second time that hour that Arnold had been assaulted. By the time the deputies arrived, she said she had already fended off an attack by some local boys.

In an interview, the 34-year-old Arnold, who has not been previously identified, told the news organizations she had needed the police’s protection. But protection is not what she got.

Am I Next
Photo Credit: Ted Eytan https://cswr.hds.harvard.edu/news/2020/10/09/video-spirits-whiteness-age-covid-19

The video begins with a sheriff’s deputy seen holding the wrist of Arnold, who is lying on her back on the sidewalk. The deputy appears to be dragging her along the pavement. The deputy then grabs Arnold’s arm with his other hand and jerks her upward, lifting her body off the ground. They briefly disappear behind a parked white vehicle. When they come back into view, the deputy is holding Arnold by her braids, slamming her repeatedly onto the cement. At one point, he whips her down so violently her body spins around and flips over.

The footage ends as the deputy crouches down and places a knee onto Arnold’s back.

In this case, the Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal affairs investigation into the incident, something it has not done in some similar cases, according to court records. ProPublica and WWNO/WRKF were able to confirm the probe because Arnold, who did not file an official complaint, and her relatives have transcripts of their interviews with investigators. But Sheriff Joe Lopinto did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the incident itself or his department’s response to it.

For decades, members of the Black community have accused the Sheriff’s Office of using excessive force against them, making false arrests and failing to rein in abusive deputies. Last month, a story published by WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica revealed stark racial disparities in shootings by deputies and systemic problems with transparency and accountability.

The investigation found that more than 70% of the people deputies shot at during the past eight years were Black, more than double the parish’s Black population. In addition, 12 of the 16 people who died after being shot or restrained by deputies during that time were Black men. The investigation also found that the Sheriff’s Office could not account for how often its deputies use force or how many complaints civilians lodged against its employees.

Lopinto previously declined to be interviewed about the news organizations’ findings, saying only that when his deputies commit serious misconduct, they are arrested; he also noted that at least nine deputies, in a department of about 760 deputies, had been booked since he became sheriff in 2017.

Following the story, the ACLU of Louisiana called on federal prosecutors to launch an investigation into the Sheriff’s Office.

Arnold’s case raises many of those same issues. The evidence — based on interviews with the victim and the two witnesses, statements they provided to the sheriff’s internal affairs division and the video — makes clear that something went very wrong when a citizen of Jefferson Parish needed help.

The incident started around 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 when Arnold was attacked by three boys as she was walking down the street near her family’s trailer home. At 4-foot-8 and about 100 pounds, her left eye missing from a car accident years earlier, Arnold regularly made an easy target for the neighborhood bullies, her family said.

During the attack, which lasted several minutes and was captured in a cellphone video, the boys slammed Arnold to the ground and beat her while a crowd watched and laughed. She tried to defend herself with a stick, which is visible in the video. The assault ended only after 71-year-old Lionel Gray, whom Arnold considers her stepfather, chased the boys away.

Disheveled and covered in dirt, Arnold stumbled down the road toward her home when an unidentified sheriff’s deputy rolled up beside her in his patrol car.

In the transcript of her interview with an internal affairs investigator, Arnold says: “I’m on my way home. I ain’t make it all the way to the block, the police come out of nowhere, swarming, getting me like, ‘Come here.’ I’m like, ‘What’s going on? I just got beat up by two children, what ya’ll doing?’”

Arnold said the deputy demanded she stop and talk to him. She told him that she had just been assaulted and wanted to go home, and she continued walking.

According to Gray and another witness, Arnold’s 55-year-old uncle, Tony Givens, the officer jumped out of his vehicle, grabbed Arnold and threw her to the ground, unprovoked. Gray and Givens were standing at the foot of the family’s driveway, about 20 feet away.

In an interview with the internal affairs investigator, Gray said that Arnold didn’t pull away. “She didn’t have a chance to pull away because, you know, this guy was strong. He grabbed her arm, and some kind of move he made, and she went down to the ground. … So I was walking up to him and he told me, ‘If you come any closer I’m going to kick everybody’s ass out here.’ So, I said … ‘you don’t have to use that type of force on that little woman right there, she’s a midget.’”

What happened next was picked up on a video shared on social media and viewed more than 130,000 times. It is unclear who took the video, which is the only footage of the incident to have surfaced; the Sheriff’s Office remains one of the few large law enforcement agencies across the country that does not use body cameras. This week, however, the Sheriff’s Office announced that it had signed an $8.7 million contract for 500 body cameras that would be deployed by December.

Lopinto said that the contract had been signed in June, “well before any of these articles that were written,” and that he didn’t say anything publicly because “really nobody has asked me. It’s not like I denied it,” he said.

WWNO/WRKF and ProPublica sent the Sheriff’s Office an email on July 29 specifically asking about the fact that the office had not yet adopted body cameras. The Sheriff’s Office did not respond to that email, five follow-up emails and multiple voicemail messages, texts and a certified letter.

Arnold told investigators with the Sheriff’s Office that it was not the boys but the deputy who caused her injuries, which included bruises and scratches across her body, a busted lip and recurring headaches. Deputies on the scene called an ambulance, which took Arnold to a local hospital. She was not charged with a crime.

Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said the video of Arnold and the deputy was “yet another testament to the shocking frequency that JPSO targets and brutalizes innocent, unarmed members of the Black community.”

Sam Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, called the deputy’s actions in the video “outrageous” and questioned whether the Sheriff’s Office properly trains its deputies in control tactics or de-escalation techniques.

“There are essentially two answers here. One is they do, and he ignored his training,” Walker said. “Or answer No. 2 is no, they don’t, which is to say their training program is completely unacceptable. So, it’s either him or the organization.”

The video of Arnold and the deputy also raises new questions about the Sheriff’s Office use-of-force policy, which activists and critics have assailed as vague and insufficient.

They have also said that the department lacks transparency around use-of-force incidents. According to the news investigation published last month, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office was unable to produce any documents related to non-shooting use-of-force incidents. The research organization Police Scorecard Project made a similar request for data on use-of-force incidents; the Sheriff’s Office responded by saying those records don’t exist.

ACLU Calls On Federal Prosecutors to Investigate the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office
Shortly after Arnold had been taken to a hospital by ambulance, her sister, Mercedes, arrived on the scene. Mercedes, 32, said the deputy accused of attacking her sister was still present and tried to convince her to call the coroner to have Arnold committed to a hospital for mental health problems. She refused.

“He was just trying to cover up what he did by saying my sister is crazy,” she said.

In the following days and weeks, Mercedes and multiple family members said, the same deputy has rolled by their house multiple times in what she believes to be an attempt to intimidate them. But she said she and her family are not afraid and will continue to speak up until the Sheriff’s Office holds its deputies accountable.


Bernie Sanders & Gaza

Why Did Bernie Sanders Vote For Iron Dome Funding?

Alex Kane, Jewish Currents

[Progressives are often caught in a bind. We want our politicians to vote and champion according to their stated values. And when they don’t, it’s easy to condemn them for making a choice with an opaque upside. Much better to hold them accountable. 

But in this case, we can see what is happening behind the scenes. Thanks to Alex Kane’s reporting, we know that Sen. Sanders didn’t simply cave by voting for more money for Israeli armaments, he leveraged his support to advocate for more aid to Gaza, which continues to be victimized by the Israeli blockade. As progressives, we don’t always get the votes we want from our favorite electeds. But we should always demand integrity. Is that what is on display here? We think it’s a question worth pondering.  — Progressive Hub.]

Ahead of a Senate vote that is expected to authorize an extra billion dollars in military aid for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, Senator Bernie Sanders’s office says Sanders has secured a commitment from Democratic leadership that the US will also send additional humanitarian funds to Palestinians in Gaza, the coastal enclave devastated by Israel’s aerial assault this spring.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer obtained by Jewish Currents, Sanders seemed critical of the Iron Dome funding, which would fulfill an Israeli request for targeted aid to the program on top of the $3.8 billion in US military aid that goes to Israel every year. While acknowledging that Iron Dome “saves civilian lives from missile attacks,” he also noted that the anti-rocket system was already “fully funded” by the US, and that the US gives Israel “more [aid] than any other country in the world.” But Sanders is also planning to vote “yes” on Iron Dome, leveraging his vote in exchange for leadership’s backing of the humanitarian relief.

“A goal here is to make clear that it’s no longer acceptable to keep sending billions in military aid to Israel without any debate, and without any acknowledgement of the violence endured by Palestinians living under occupation and blockade,” said Matt Duss, Sanders’s foreign policy advisor.

Bernie Sanders & Gaza
Credit: Hosni Saleh, https://pixabay.com/photos/gaza-strip-palestine-3829405/

The move returns Sanders to a familiar role: that of the US Senate’s foremost advocate for increased aid for Gaza, to address the territory’s Israeli-imposed economic and humanitarian crisis. But it also serves as a reminder of the Palestinian rights movement’s weak foothold in the Senate. Palestinian rights advocates have spent the past few weeks pushing progressives to vote “no” on Iron Dome funding, arguing that additional military aid fuels Israel’s ability to carry out its policies of occupation and apartheid without facing accountability. Sanders, however, is not following their lead. In fact, it’s unlikely any Senator will vote “no” on the funding.

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india walton between byron brown and justice

Michael Moore on Supporting India Walton for Buffalo Mayor

Michael Moore, Rumble

[Today we’re reposting Michael Moore’s intro to his episode of Rumble with India Walton, a Democratic Socialist likely to be Buffalo’s next mayor. Why it matters: Buffalo is not an insignificant city. It’s the second largest city in New York state, and its political dynamics aren’t that different than many other similar sized cities. For that reason, supporters and opponents of Walton are asking the question: is this the start of something new (electing left mayors in major cities) or the high water mark of a singular candidate?

We won’t answer that question for you, but we will direct you to listen carefully to Walton’s choice of words. It’s a masterclass in how progressives ought to communicate when they are truly part of a people powered wave of change. — Progressive Hub]

The only way we will get real, necessary change in this country and defeat the 3 pandemics we face — Covid, Climate and Coup — is not only by defeating the Republican party into a Whig-like oblivion, but by also replacing corporate, Manchin/Sinema-type Democrats at every opportunity we get with good, honest, working-class candidates who represent the people and not the corporate power elite.

The only reason we may be on the brink of passing a monumental investment in childcare, healthcare and education in this country is because of the people, the movements, the organizers and the voters that have put leaders like Bernie Sanders, Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman and several others in positions of power in Washington. This is not a “fringe” group in Congress anymore. They hold real power. The Biden’s, Schumer’s and Pelosi’s — they are now championing a Bernie Sanders-written piece of legislation. This signifies that we are winningWe are winning the war of ideas. We are winning the policy debates. We are winning elections. And when roadblocks like Manchin and Sinema threaten to get in the way of this progress, the solution is to keep winning more! Find the corporate Democrat (or Republican) who is holding up progress in your state, in your district, in your town, run against them and defeat them!

It works! Just ask AOC. Ask Jamaal Bowman. Ask Cori Bush.

This must be done on all levels of government. Which brings us to Buffalo:

india walton between byron brown and justice

In June of this year, India Walton shocked the political world by defeating the four-term incumbent mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown, in the Democratic primary, setting the table for her to become the favorite to win the Mayoral race in November because it’s a heavily Democratic city.

She would be the first democratic socialist to be elected mayor of a major American city in more than half a century, and the first woman — and first Black woman — to lead New York’s second-largest city.

India Walton is a registered nurse, a union member and organizer, a community activist, a single mother of 4 boys — and come November, we’ll start addressing her as “Mayor.”

Of course, the corporate Democratic establishment only knows how to fight like hell when they are punching left – so India is now facing a barrage of attacks, personal threats, and a write-in campaign from the man she already defeated in the Democratic primary. And it is being funded and supported by some Republicans and Trump-aligned figures. As one commentator put it, “the entire power elite in Buffalo and western New York is somewhat determined to try to stop Walton after she sort of slipped one by them in the primary.”

The general election is next month, on November 2nd. We must all circle-the-wagons and support India Walton in any way that we can. Click here to volunteer or donate to her campaign if you are able:

Volunteer or Donate To India Walton

You can also help by listening to her story in this week’s episode of Rumble with Michael Moore (above on Substack or below on Spotify or one of the other podcast apps) and sharing it with others.

It’s another example of a working-class person, respected in her community, and supported by her family and friends, who thought, “why not me? If these bozos can run cities and hold a powerful office, why can’t I?”

Some of you reading this email are the India Walton of your town. The Alexandria of your town. The Jamaal of your town. The Cori of your town. Some of you reading this are next in line to shock the political world, not because of your political connections, rich dads, or fancy degrees (though I have nothing against you earning one!), but because you care about people. You have a good heart. You are smart. You work hard and are willing to knock on every door in your district to share your story and extend your hand in solidarity to whomever is on the other side of that door. I don’t mean the bullshit “reaching across the aisle” phoniness we hear about in Washington, where corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans find a “third way” and “compromise” and get celebrated on the cable news networks for compromising-away your healthcare, your factory, and your right to an abortion. I’m talking about the real connections we must all be making in our cities, in good faith, because we believe in our values and our arguments and we believe that if we share them with enough people, we’ll be in the majority on election day. Because we are the majority.

Just listen to India Walton’s conversation with me and hear how it’s done.

-Mike

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The end of expanded UI

Ending Expanded Unemployment Benefits: Cruel & Counterproductive

Ryan Cooper, The Week

[It’s a bit surprising how little unrest flowed from the decision to end pandemic unemployment benefits. Close to 8 million people were getting them one week, and then not the next. Cooper asks the question: what was this cruelty meant to achieve? Is it working? The answers are illuminating. — Progressive Hub]

Last month, the pandemic unemployment benefits — what I’ve been calling super-unemployment — expired, with the support of both Republican governors and the Biden administration. The thinking, at least in part, was that this would help push workers into new jobs: Too many Americans had gotten fat and lazy living off unemployment benefits, and it was time to starve them into the labor market.

Today, the September jobs report came in, and that thinking has been proved wrong. Just 194,000 jobs were created last month — as compared to hopeful economist predictions of 720,000. As Matt Bruenig writes at the People’s Policy Project, “This was the worst month of job growth since Biden became president and the second-worst since May of last year when the pandemic labor market recovery began.” America is still about 5 million jobs short of the pre-pandemic total. At this rate, it will be around December 2023 before that gap is closed. Starving people into jobs isn’t working.

The end of expanded UI
Credit: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=387542
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Julian Assange

Julian Assange: Silence in the Face of CIA Murder Plots

John McEvoy, FAIR

Yahoo! News (9/26/21) published a bombshell report detailing the US Central Intelligence Agency’s “secret war plans against WikiLeaks,” including clandestine plots to kill or kidnap publisher Julian Assange while he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Following WikiLeaks‘ publication of the Vault 7 files in 2017—the largest leak in CIA history, which exposed how US and UK intelligence agencies could hack into household devices—the US government designated WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” (The Hill4/13/17), providing legal cover to target the organization as if it were an adversarial spy agency.

Within this context, the Donald Trump administration reportedly requested “sketches” or “options” for how to kill Assange, according to the Yahoo! expose (written by Zach Dorfman, Sean D. Naylor and Michael Isikoff), while the CIA drew up plans to kidnap him. (Assange was expelled from the embassy in 2019 and has since then been in British prison, fighting a demand that he be extradited to the US to face charges of espionage—FAIR.org11/13/20.)

Shortly after publication, former CIA director Mike Pompeo (Yahoo! News9/29/21) seemed to confirm the report’s findings, declaring that the former US intelligence officials who spoke with Yahoo! “should all be prosecuted for speaking about classified activity inside the CIA.”

Julian Assange
Julian Assange. Original image via Acid Polly, https://www.flickr.com/photos/acidpolly/5935487106. Picture taken 2011.

Ghoulish indifference

Independent: The CIA plot to kidnap or kill Julian Assange in London is a story that is being mistakenly ignored

Patrick Cockburn (Independent10/1/21): “The scoop about the CIA’s plot to kidnap or kill Assange has been largely ignored or downplayed.”

It would seem that covert plans for the state-sanctioned murder on British soil of an award-winning journalist should attract sustained, wall-to-wall media coverage.

The news, however, has been met by Western establishment media with ghoulish indifference—a damning indictment of an industry that feverishly condemns attacks on press freedom in Official Enemy states.

BBC News, one of the most-read news outlets in the world, appears to have covered the story just once—in the Somali-language section of the BBC website (Media Lens on Twitter9/30/21).

Neither the New York Times or Washington Post, two of the world’s leading corporate news organizations, have published any articles about Assange since July 2021.

To its credit, since the story first broke on September 26, the Guardian has reported twice on the CIA-led conspiracy to kill or kidnap Assange. But to offer perspective, during the week after Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was reported to have been poisoned by the Russian government, the Guardian published 16 separate pieces on the issue, including video reports and opinion pieces.

Similarly, a Nexis search of British newspapers for the word “Navalny” brings up 288 results from August 20–25, 2020. The same search for “Assange” between September 26–October 1, 2021, brings up a meager 29 results—one of which, a notable exception, was a Patrick Cockburn piece in the Independent (10/1/21).

Crucial relief

 

As is typical of stories that embarrass the Western intelligence services, independent media provided crucial relief to the backdrop of chilling indifference, with the Grayzone’s Aaron Maté (YouTube9/30/21) conducting a rigorous interview with one of the report’s authors, Michael Isikoff.

Indeed, the Grayzone (5/14/20) was the first outlet to provide evidence of a CIA-linked proposal to “kidnap or poison Assange” in May 2020. The story, however, was almost universally ignored, suggesting that, as Joe Lauria wrote in Consortium News (10/2/21), “until something appears in the mainstream media, it didn’t happen.”

One thing the corporate media cannot be accused of with regards to Assange, however, is inconsistency. After a key witness in the Department of Justice’s case against the publisher admitted to providing the US prosecution with false testimony, a detail that should ordinarily turn a case to dust, the corporate media responded by ignoring the story almost entirely. As Alan MacLeod wrote for FAIR.org (7/2/21):

The complete uniformity with which corporate media have treated this latest bombshell news raises even more concerns about how fundamentally intertwined and aligned they are with the interests of the US government.

Even after it was revealed that the UC Global security firm that targeted Assange had also spied on journalists at the Washington Post and New York Times, neither outlet mounted any protest (Grayzone9/18/20).

Perhaps most remarkably, UK judge Vanessa Baraitser relied on a falsified CNN report (7/15/19)  to justify the CIA’s spying operation against Assange (Grayzone5/1/21). Now, CNN’s website contains no reports on the agency’s plans to kill or kidnap Assange.

The prevailing silence has extended into the NGO industry. Amnesty International, which refused in 2019 to consider Assange a prisoner of conscience, has said nothing about the latest revelations. Likewise, Index on Censorship, which describes itself as “The Global Voice of Free Expression,” hasn’t responded to the story.

The establishment media’s dismissal of Assange supports Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s framework of “worthy” and “unworthy” political dissidents, with Assange situated firmly in the latter camp.

Only barrier is pride’

Guardian: The only barrier to Julian Assange leaving Ecuador’s embassy is pride

This James Ball column (Guardian1/10/18) has not aged well.

The present circumstances become even more deplorable upon consideration of the corporate journalists who arrogantly diminished, or even delighted in, Assange’s concerns for his own safety.

The Guardian’s James Ball (1/10/18) published a now infamous article headlined, “The Only Barrier to Julian Assange Leaving Ecuador’s Embassy Is Pride.” “The WikiLeaks founder is unlikely to face prosecution in the US,” the subhead confidently asserted. The column concluded:

Assange does not want to be trapped in Ecuador’s embassy, and his hosts do not want him there. Their problem is that what’s keeping him trapped there is not so much the iniquitous actions of world powers, but pride.

In a later article (3/29/18), Ball insisted that Assange “should hold his hands up and leave the embassy.”

Ball, at least, has written something on the latest revelations, but his article in the London Times (10/03/21) remains typically scornful of Assange’s persona.

The Guardian’s Marina Hyde (5/19/17) took a similar angle. Under the headline “The Moral of the Assange Story? Wait Long Enough, and Bad Stuff Goes Away,” Hyde wrote that “Captain WikiLeaks will get out of pretend-jail eventually.” More than four years later, Assange is in Belmarsh prison, “the closest comparison in the United Kingdom to Guantánamo,” according to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. Hyde has said nothing of the very real plans to murder or kidnap him.

In the same vein, journalist Suzanne Moore—who had previously publicly mocked Assange on a number of occasions—wrote in the New Statesman (4/12/19) after Assange’s arrest:

We are all bored out of our minds with Brexit when a demented-looking gnome is pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the secret police of the deep state. Or “the met,” as normal people call them.

Moore, winner of the Orwell Prize for journalism in 2019, was not the first of her colleagues to ridicule WikiLeaks and its supporters as paranoid about an increasingly powerful state security apparatus. A column by the Guardian‘s Nick Cohen (6/23/12)  offered “supporters of Julian Assange” as a “definition of paranoia”:

Assange’s supporters do not tell us how the Americans could prosecute the incontinent leaker. American democracy is guilty of many crimes and corruptions. But the First Amendment to the US constitution is the finest defense of freedom of speech yet written. The American Civil Liberties Union thinks it would be unconstitutional for a judge to punish Assange.

And, in any case, “Britain has a notoriously lax extradition treaty with the United States.”

Blinded by propaganda

Medium: Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange

Nils Melzer (Medium6/26/19): “Once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course.”

It is of little surprise, then, that the Guardian, among other news outlets, refused to publish the words of UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, who wrote in June 2019:

In the end, it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide.

The Assange case once again demonstrates that when erroneous reporting falls on the right side of the US and UK foreign policy establishment, editorial standards are set aside, and journalistic failures are met with zero accountability.

As such, it’s important to remember those journalists who watched on, pointing, laughing, comfortable in the knowledge that their work would never produce the impact nor risk of WikiLeaks—and then said nothing as the right to a free press was removed in broad daylight.