Cancel student loan debt cap on pile of money

Progressives To Biden: 'Cancel Student Loan Debt.' All of It.

“Student loan payments resume in 61 days. Borrowers are NOT ready or able to restart them,” said Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.

By Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams

A group of progressive lawmakers is urging the Biden administration to cancel student debt—a call they say is especially urgent in light of the fast-approaching end to a pandemic-related moratorium on payments.

“Student loan payments resume in 61 days. Borrowers are NOT ready or able to restart them,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted late Thursday.

“It’s time for @POTUS to cancel student debt,” she said.

Cancel student loan debt cap on pile of money

Jayapal was among a number of progressive House Democrats who took to the floor Thursday to highlight the need for sweeping relief, some of whom spoke of their own lingering student debt burden.

Thirty-two-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who said the crisis—which now stands at over $1.8 trillion and affects roughly 45 million Americans—had reached a “ridiculous” level, noted that she still has over $17,000 in student loan debt and that the prospect of going deeper into debt prompted her decision not to pursue graduate school.

Part of the problem, she said, is that it can be “teenagers signing up for what is often hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt… and we think that’s responsible policy.”

“This is unacceptable,” she said, adding federal policies in the U.S. are “actively disincentivizing” people from growing to college—a situation she called “backwards.”

As Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) pointed out in her remarks, the educational debt isn’t merely a problem for those recently out of school.

“I have 76-year-old constituents in the Massachusetts 7th still paying student loans,” she said, “all while on Social Security and a fixed income.”

President Joe Biden using his executive authority to wipe out $50,000 per borrower in student debt, said Pressley, would be “one of the most effective ways that he can provide sweeping relief to millions of families while helping to reduce the racial wealth gap to lay the groundwork for an equitable and just long term recovery.”

“This is a crisis created through policy decisions,” she added. “We have a responsibility to address it head-on.”

Progressive groups and lawmakers have urged Biden to exercise the legal authority they say he has under Section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act to cancel student debt.

As of Thursday, the White House has not indicated a further extension of the loan payment pause relief, and while Education Department officials this week lamented the student debt crisis and touted the administration’s efforts to provide relief to a small subsection of borrowers, a plan for broad debt cancellation was not put on the table.

In addition, a draft memo Biden requested on his authority over the cancelation was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Debt Collective—but it is nearly entirely redacted and has still not been made visible to the public.

The lawmakers’ remarks came as new polling showed a dire economic situation by some borrowers as the payment moratorium ends at the end of January.

According to the survey by advocacy group Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC) and technology company Savi from Nov. 1-Nov.14, 89% of fully-employed student loan borrowers said they are not financially secure enough to resume payments when they start back up in less than two months.

Nearly as many respondents (87%) said the temporary loan relief made it possible for them to afford other bills during the Covid-19 crisis.

The survey findings, said SDCC president and founder Natalia Abrams, show “that student loan borrowers face economic obstacles that are larger and longer-lasting than we imagined. As the economy recovers, even fully-employed student loan borrowers are not financially secure enough to make payments again.”

“Simply put,” she said, “Americans with student debt aren’t facing an employment crisis, they are facing a student debt crisis.”

portrait of nobel next to nobel peace prize

Nobel Peace Prize: Peace By Global Disarmament Or Press Freedom?

The Nobel Prize Committee should start serving Nobel’s idea of security, justice and prosperity in a demilitarized world — not Norway’s foreign policy goals.

Fredrik S. Heffermehl, Nobel Peace Prize Watch

Which is the better road to world peace? This is not for the Nobel committee to decide. It is legally bound by Alfred Nobel´s testament and his choice between two entirely opposite policies. If weapons had been the solution, we would have had peace long ago. The idea of Nobel´s testament, much more important today, was to liberate all nations from the yoke of weapons, warriors and war.

So, can this year´s Nobel Peace Prize, for “freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia”, be the best effort for a disarmed world order in the world today? My research through 14 years leaves no doubt that the Norwegian awarders never liked Nobel´s vision of peace and have used the prize to serve their own ideas and interests. The committee has practiced a concept of peace without any meaningful limitation and, even worse, peace is not a word used by Nobel in his will. Another basic flaw is that they have glorified persons while the task was to promote a political idea, peace by disarmament.

portrait of nobel next to nobel peace prize

The unfortunate truth is that Nobel´s prize failed from the start in 1901. Rather than actively promoting peace by co-operation on global disarmament it has been firmly anchored in Norwegian politics and reflected a belief in military security and trust in an imperial and belligerent superpower. My research, including the committee´s files, reveals a systematic repression of the people and ideas Nobel had in mind. A total 114 “champions of peace” were cheated of their prizes. Presented with the evidence the Nobel committee recently, instead of ending its shabby management, chose to neglect my many exciting discoveries on what the Nobel prize could achieve in today´s world, go against the idea of disarmament, and deliver an intemperate attack on my honesty and competence.

The world simply cannot afford to continue war business as usual. The costs of arms races prevent us from addressing numerous very real threats, climate break-down, nuclear arms, poverty, a lasting pandemic, an increasingly fragile food supply. We have to realize that military power games only guarantee eternal insecurity and threat of annihilation.

To negate my criticism the award committee for years routinely has made brazen claims that each new prize is “firmly anchored” in Nobel´s will, invoking a random expression in the testament. But what does the 2021 prize for press freedom do for global disarmament? Similarly, were the UN food program (2020), Abiy Ahmed (2019), Mukwege/Murad (2018), engaged in global demilitarization? What makes the 2021 prize particularly lamentable is that the committee failed to defend the world against a most deadly threat against press freedom in the world today – in the military field – the cruel persecution of Australian journalist Julian Assange for revealing the war crimes of a belligerent superpower.

The Norwegian committee is averse to the most obvious and indispensable step to promoting Nobel´s vision of peace, announcing the world order he actually had in mind and how to achieve it. Without shame it insists on, in unfailing service to Norwegian foreign policy, continuing to ignore the express language on disarmament in the testament. Instead of defending its 120 years of betrayal of its mandate, today´s committee should start serving Nobel´s idea of security, justice and prosperity in a demilitarized world.

Fredrik S. Heffermehl, lawyer and author, latest book Medaljens bakside. Manager of Nobel Peace Prize Watch and

justice with an old VHS effect

‘White Supremacists Were Willing to Hold the United States Hostage’

Janine Jackson interviewed Emory’s Carol Anderson about democracy vs. white supremacy for the November 26, 2021, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

Janine Jackson,

Janine Jackson: Those sifting for signs of critical weakness in the prosecution argument in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial are missing the forest for the trees. We ask the law to deliver us from injustice. But remember why people were protesting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the first place—to protest the inadequacy of US systems and institutions to protect or to value Black life.

The head-spinning outrage of this case, from police thanking Rittenhouse for roaming around with an illegal assault rifle, up through his acquittal of the murders he committed, may make it seem that what we used to quaintly call “race relations” have gone to a whole other level.

justice with an old VHS effect

But it’s important to remember that the roots of these events, along with other things we see happening, are entwined deeply throughout this country’s history. And as our guest’s work reminds us, we aren’t just talking about the relationship between Black and white Americans. We’re talking about the relationship between Americans and democracy.

Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African-American Studies at Emory University, and the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy. She joins us now by phone from Atlanta. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Carol Anderson.

Carol Anderson: Thank you so much for having me.

Guardian: White supremacists declare war on democracy and walk away unscathed

Guardian (11/10/21)

JJ: I’ve been hearing the term “turning point.” And I want to believe it. But if we are to be at a turning point, seeing where we’ve been can show us what we need to do, and what will be insufficient. And that’s why I wanted to talk about your most recent piece for the Guardian, whose headline really encapsulates the lesson: “White Supremacists Declare War on Democracy and Walk Away Unscathed.”

You’re talking, yes, about the January 6 insurrection, and the response to that. But you talk about it as an echo of actions and responses, going really all the way back to the beginning of the country.

CA: Absolutely. And what struck me—and this really began to come out for me as I was working on my latest bookThe Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America

JJ: Oh boy.

CA: —was the way that white supremacists were willing to hold the United States of America hostage in order to advance their white supremacist ideology, in order to embed it into the bedrock foundation of this nation. And that they were willing to destroy the United States if they didn’t get their way. And for that, they should have been held accountable.

But instead, they were revered. Instead, they were allowed to walk away. And that lack of accountability, over and over and over, only emboldens the white supremacists, and puts the United States of America and its ideas and this democracy at risk.

JJ: You talk about how even during the War of Independence, we’re talking about South Carolina, take us back to that. Because I don’t believe that people—I think people think, yes, I remember the Civil War. But it goes before that.

CA: It goes before that. And so you had the British, who said that they were going to hit the soft underbelly of the revolution, which was the South. And the British hit Georgia, and just took Savannah, boom, like that. And then they were headed up to South Carolina. And George Washington sent his emissary, his aide-de-camp, down to South Carolina, to plead with the government there to arm the enslaved. Because South Carolina did not have enough white men to take on that 8,000-strong British force that was coming for the invasion.

And South Carolina looked at John Laurens—and John Laurens is a son of the South. He is a South Carolinian. And they looked at him, and they were outraged. They talked about how horrified they were. They were absolutely alarmed that he would even suggest this, that this would be coming from Washington, this would be coming from the Continental Congress. To try to arm the enslaved, just because the British were invading? No way, because whites had deployed white men to act as the militia to control that enslaved population, that the government had defined as the threat.

So this is in the middle of a war, and the threat are Black people. You know, they began to talk about surrendering to the British, and trying to declare their neutrality in this war, just so they would not have to arm the enslaved.

And so think about that. They were willing to walk away from the United States of America, the thing that folks had been fighting for, the thing that folks had been dying for, just so they could continue to enslave human beings, enslave Black people.

JJ: And so it’s very meaningful, then, that after that fact, there was no kind of comeuppance. There was no kind of, you know, you didn’t have our back there; you weren’t really with us. There was no kind of assessment or real consequences for South Carolina.

CA: No consequences. There was some grumbling, like, ugh, they didn’t even fight. But the thing is that they were fully welcomed into the halls of power. They were fully welcomed into the Constitutional Convention where, again, they flexed their Southern muscles to demand that the bedrock document for the United States of America, the Constitution, would have embedded in it inordinate power for slaveholders, for the enslavers. And that it would continue to protect slavery. And they kept making clear, we will walk away unless we get what we want.

And so you had folks like James Madison, who was the architect of the Constitution, and Rufus King out of Massachusetts, who were beside themselves, going, we had to give in. Because the United States of America was worth it. They were willing to destroy the United States of America unless they got their way.

Preston Brooks assaulting Charles Sumner

And so their way included 20 additional years of the Atlantic slave trade. It included the Fugitive Slave Clause. And it included the Three-Fifths Clause that added additional Congressional representation to the Southern states in Congress by counting their enslaved people as three-fifths for population numbers. And it was that Three-Fifths Clause that added an additional 18 to 20 seats to the South in Congress, where they then flexed their muscle again. And for all of that, no consequences.

JJ: Can you just take a note about the beating up? You know, we’re not talking just haranguing. What they did to get their way, it would blow minds today.

CA: Joanne Freeman wrote a brilliant book, Field of Blood, where she lays out how the South bullied and beat on Northern Congressional representatives to ensure that language and bills that would try to curtail slavery did not see the light of day. So this led up to the caning, actually, of Charles Sumner, where he was beaten on the Senate floor by Preston Brooks out of South Carolina. No consequences.

JJ: Right.

Carol Anderson

CA: And what this does, is white supremacy keeps bullying, keeps beating, keeps threatening the viability of the United States of America. White supremacy cannot be satisfied, cannot be sated. There’s not enough that you can give it to make it go, OK, I’m fine. We’re cool. Instead, without having consequences for that horrific behavior, it only emboldens. And this is what leads us into the Civil War.

JJ: Absolutely. And so I hope that listeners know about the Civil War and the Confederacy.

But let’s skip, if we would, to the way they were treated. Again, we’re talking about repercussions for aggression. We have folks who are so emboldened that they’re declaring war on the United States. Then when they lose, again they get folded back in, right?

CA: Oh, oh, oh! I mean, so imagine killing over 600,000 American troops, costing the US billions of dollars, trying to get the British and the French to hop into the war to fight against the United States of America. And after the South loses the war, then you have Andrew Johnson, as president, granting amnesty to the Confederate leaders. Because the whole point for Johnson was that this was a war to keep the Union together. And so  you don’t have the consequences for those who waged war against the United States of America. These are traitors.

And instead what happens is that you get not only this folding in of these traitors into the United States of America, but you get then this narrative that comes through in the textbooks, this “lost cause,” that this war was about Southern heritage, and it was about states’ rights. It wasn’t about slavery. And that this was the War of Northern Aggression, when it was the South that fired on Fort Sumter because Lincoln had won the election, and his platform was that he did not want to see slavery extended out West. Not that he wanted to abolish slavery, but that he didn’t want to have it extended out West.

And that’s what I mean about white supremacy cannot be sated. White supremacy cannot be sated, and particularly if it does not have to face the consequences of the damage that it does to this nation, to American democracy.

JJ: The importance of that narrative being allowed to continue and to grow can’t be overstated. But I also wanted to note how you point out that folding those Confederates back into the US, that was also helped by the Supreme Court undoing decisions that Congress had made, and we’re still living with that as well.

Ku Klux Klan uniform (Wikimedia)

CA: Absolutely. So the Reconstruction Congress had put in place, basically, the 13th, the 14th and the 15th Amendments: 13th abolishing slavery; the 14th providing for birthright citizenship, due process and equal protection under the law; and the 15th providing that no state shall abridge the right to vote on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.

Congress also passed acts to ban white domestic terrorism, because of the rise of the Klan and the violence of the Klan and its ilk, such as the Knights of the White Camellia and the Red Shirts, were raining down on Black folk. And so Congress had tried to provide those protections.

And you had the US Supreme Court going through, in decision after decision, and undermining every one of those protections. And what that did was it allowed the rise of that white supremacist regime to go on unchecked, and rain down its violence and its discriminatory actions that, again, undermined American democracy. This is where we get the rise of Jim Crow, and this is where we get the rise of lynching.

JJ: And it shows the intertwining of law and this vigilantism. I mean, it’s not just the narrative of the lost cause and the War of Northern Aggression that’s been allowed to go unchecked. But we also have these laws that tell people that somehow the law has their back.

And that brings us back to January 6 at the US Capitol, where people are believing that they are supporting something, believing that they are also continuing some historical thrust. And they have reason to believe that, yeah? And then also the consequences here—again, folks may say, this is so surprising. This is an echo of what’s happened before.

CA: This is an echo of what happened before. Because what this was about at its base was the demonization of voters of color. So you had the Republicans laying out that the election was stolen from Trump in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Detroit, cities where you have sizable Black populations. So when they say if you only count the legal votes, he won. Which meant, if you don’t count the votes from Black folk in the city, he won.

Gallows erected on Capitol Hill by pro-Trump militants

Military Times (1/6/21;  photo: Sarah Sicard)

And it is that anger, that Black folks and Asian Americans and Native Americans and Hispanics did not overwhelmingly vote for an avowed white supremacist, that you get this attack on the US Capitol, on American democracy, as Congress is doing its work of certifying the election by counting the electoral votes. And where they’re, “Hang Mike Pence,” and they’re hunting for Nancy Pelosi. As one of the assailants said, they wanted to drag her where her head was hitting every one of the steps coming down out of that Capitol. They saw themselves as patriots.

But what they were doing is assaulting American democracy for white supremacy. That should have been stunning enough. But instead what we get is the January 6 Commission taking months upon months to come into being. And then its subpoenas being like, Ha! Who cares about a subpoena?

JJ: Right.

CA: Where you’re getting the assailants who went into the Capitol, who defecated in there, beat on police officers. We got the first real sentence of 41 months. But generally, you were getting probation. You were getting, you can go on vacation. Uh, wow.

JJ: Wow. Yeah.

CA: Wow. When you don’t have consequences for assaulting American democracy, it empowers and it emboldens white supremacy to assault and attack it again.

JJ: Many people think of history as moving, if not smoothly, still directionally, you know? Like, we’re still sort of stepping towards equality among races, with a few steps back. But part of that narrative is: You don’t fight for equality. Equality is about everybody getting along, you know? And so Black people being angry is part of the problem. There’s this narrative confusion about what it takes to make history, and that somehow history is going to happen even if I don’t do anything.

Frederick Douglass

CA: And as Frederick Douglass said, power never concedes anything without a demand. It never has and it never will. To me, the story of America is that we are an aspirational nation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” That’s the aspiration.

And you have those that confuse that aspiration with achievement. Like, we have overcome? When in fact it has been Black folk who have been fighting to make that aspiration real. It has been those who have been marginalized in the society, those who have faced the brunt of the worst that white supremacy has to offer. And who believed in America enough to fight for it—not fight against it, but to fight for it.

JJ: I’ve been thinking of this Raymond Williams quote. “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.” I find it difficult to grapple with right now, but in your work, you talk about imagining. You talk about, what if Reconstruction had actually honored the citizenship of 4 million freed people?

CA: Yes.

JJ: What if Brown v. Board of Education were really honored?

CA: Wow.

JJ: Being able to imagine, to envision, that’s the way to get to hope. That’s the only way. Isn’t it?

CA: Yes, because it is in that imagining that you know what you’re fighting for. That you don’t look around you and say, well, this is the way it is, and so it’s not going to get any better. It is in that imagining—I think about the enslaved. They had to imagine what freedom looked like. Wow. Imagine hundreds of years of being enslaved, and you imagine freedom, and that freedom is a possibility for you and your family, for those that look like you. That’s powerful.

It is those who came under Jim Crow who imagined what a system looked like that did not have Jim Crow as its operating principle. We have to have that power of imagination now. It looks really, really bad. But when we imagine what our future could be, and what our present could be, and we organize and we mobilize, we vote for that future. Wow. Wow.

JJ: Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African-American Studies at Emory University. You can find her important article, “White Supremacists Declare War on Democracy and Walk Away Unscathed,” on Thank you so much for joining us this week, Carol Anderson.

CA: Oh, thank you so much for having me. Thank you.

supreme court abortion decision

For Decades, Democrats Didn't Fight Hard Enough For Abortion Rights

Abortion rights have long been a privilege that disadvantaged minorities. Now, abortion may lose federal status because Democrats simply never put in the work to defend it.

By Rebecca Traister, New York Magazine

The aftermath of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments this week on the fate of Roe v. Wade — in which a phalanx of right-wing justices made plain their disdain for the law — has been a festival of finger-pointing and recrimination by those who were startled to have woken up in a world in which it looks very much like the right to legal abortion care will soon cease to exist at the federal level.

I understand the impulse to point fingers at individuals and factions, have myself often felt the gratification that comes from naming the bad guy responsible for a mess. It feels so very good, in such a very bad time, to hate Donald Trump, as well as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and also, somehow, Susan Sarandon. This was, surely, their fault, and also the fault of everyone with the shortsightedness and self-regard to have supported them or voted for them or worn a T-shirt with their faces on it.

supreme court abortion decision

But this impulse is itself shortsighted and self-serving, in that it allows us to evade the far more suffocating and incriminating reality: that we got to this terrifying place not just by some wrong turn made recently by one wrong person we don’t like, but by decades-long, systemic failures. The biggest and most damning of these is the failure to counter a regressive movement’s project to ensure minority rule and thus dismantle the rights and protections won by activists who labored over generations to gain them — abortion rights very much included. That failure in turn reflects a deeper one: an unwillingness to take the full humanity of women, of pregnant people, of Black and brown and poor people, seriously.

Read More

progressive news roundup

Progressive News Roundup: Holding The Line On International Solidarity, More

Progressive Hub Roundup

The last week has seen Progressive Hub post a lot of articles on important faraway events that (sadly) most Americans never learn much about. Is the left neck and neck with the far right in Chile? Check. A democratic socialist candidate for president victorious in Honduras? Check. Observing the UN-mandated Palestine Day? Double Check.

What we know is that international solidarity and progress on domestic issues go hand in hand. We won’t stop connecting the dots. And we hope you won’t stop reading, sharing, and taking action.

Republicans’ Voter Suppression Plan In Georgia Is Working

Georgia election officials rejected absentee ballot applications in the state’s municipal elections this month at a rate more than four times higher than during the 2020 election cycle, in large part as the result of new restrictions on voting passed by Republican state lawmakers. Election officials rejected 4% of absentee ballot applications ahead of the Nov. 2 elections, up from less than 1% in 2020, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Build Back Better Is Gutted As NDAA Wastes Billions With Little Opposition

The drinking water in Flint, Michigan. The ashes of Paradise, California. A tub of petroleum that once was the Gulf of Mexico. Rising seas, and storms that eat cities. Black people murdered by cops, protesters gunned down by teenagers with war weapons, and children shot by children in their own homes and schools. A lethal pandemic, close to completing its second year, fueled by a vapid anti-science movement with the vocal blessing of a disgraced former president.

The Real Extremist Democrats Are Extremely In Big Business’s Pocket

Long ago, in a United States that now seems far, far away, the coming-to-America story of Saule Omarova would be hailed as a stirring endorsement of our nation as a beacon for democracy seekers. Born in 1966 under the Communist dictatorship of the USSR, and raised by her Kazakh grandmother who’d lost the rest of her family to Stalinist purges, she grew up with a passion for Pink Floyd and political dissent that caused her to stay here in the U.S. after the Soviet regime collapsed while she was a grad student in Wisconsin.

Understand China, Reduce Tensions, Ensure Peace

China also has very legitimate concerns about being choked off in various ways by the United States, given that the U.S. is the incumbent hegemonic power. There are potential economic and military threats that China feels like it has to protect itself against. Closely related to those things is Chinese nationalism. There is a sense that China is reclaiming its rightful place on the world stage after being in a subordinate position for many decades.

Xiomara Castro Fends Off Right-Wingers To Win Honduran Presidency

The opposition candidate Xiomara Castro appears poised to become the first female president of Honduras in a landslide victory 12 years after her husband was forced from power in a military-backed coup.

Can The Left Really Win In Chile?

In the Chilean electoral system, to be elected president, a candidate needs to reach 50%+ of the votes. Due to the plurality of political parties and the several candidates running for the position, none of them can get enough votes to win in the first round, leading commonly to a second round between the two top candidates — in this case, between far-right candidate Jose Antonio Kast and progressive 35-year-old MP Gabriel Boric.

Reflections On This Year’s Palestine Day — By A Former Israeli Refusenik

“About 34 years ago, I willingly walked into the processing center for draftees in Israel. This was after an intense 18-month period of organizing, wherein I helped create a group of Israeli Jews willing to publicly commit to refusing to support the Occupation. As it happened, I was the first one to be called up from those that signed our official letter. It had 16 names. This was before the first Intifada, a time when Israelis thought the Occupation was cost free and would last forever.”

The Right Is Hijacking Progressive Arguments To Undermine Public Health

As Covid-19 has ravaged the U.S., many progressive healthcare activists and organizations such as National Nurses United have illustrated how the pandemic has only made worse what was already intolerable about our for-profit medical system; they’ve continued to demand universal, publicly financed, single-payer healthcare. Some on the anti-vax right have instead used the “preexisting conditions” of our healthcare system to discredit the people and measures trying to stop the pandemic, often disingenuously co-opting progressive arguments in the process.

White Collar Privilege: Why Don’t We Prosecute Corporate Crimes?

There have been 13 deaths at the Rikers Island jail complex this year, while white-collar criminals rarely even get ankle bracelets as they await trial. This month — as the Chamber of Commerce amped up its campaign to stall legislation that would hold the Sackler family accountable for the deaths they caused and profited from by encouraging the over-prescribing of opioid drugs — a poor man in a wheelchair was killed by Covid. He’d been charged with gun possession and became the thirteenth Rikers death because he couldn’t afford $100,000 bail.

We are here to amplify important stories that media tend to ignore, while we offer actions that can make a difference. Let us know what you think needs our attention.

joe biden in front of a fence of bullets

Why We Should Oppose the Democracy Summit

The Democracy Summit, which will achieve nothing, isn’t democratic, and serves mostly to offend countries who are not invited — namely, Russia and China.

By David Swanson, World Beyond War

The exclusion of certain countries from the U.S. “democracy summit” is not a side issue. It is the very purpose of the summit. And excluded countries have not been excluded for failing to meet the standards of behavior of those that were invited or the one doing the inviting. Invitees didn’t even have to be countries, as even a U.S. backed failed coup leader from Venezuela has been invited. So have representatives of Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, DRC, Zambia, Angola, Malaysia, Kenya, and — critically — pawns in the game: Taiwan and Ukraine.

What game? The weapons sales game. Which is the whole point. Look at the U.S. State Department website on the Democracy Summit. Right at the top: “‘Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.’ –President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.”

joe biden in front of a fence of bullets

Not only do you have to “defend” and “fight,” but you have to do so against certain threats, and get a big gang in on the fighting to “tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.” The representatives of democracy at this amazing summit are such experts at democracy that they can “defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.” It’s the abroad part that may make you scratch your head if you’re thinking of democracy as having anything to do with, you know, democracy. How do you do it for some other country? But keep reading, and the Russiagate themes become clear:

“[A]uthoritarian leaders are reaching across borders to undermine democracies — from targeting journalists and human rights defenders to meddling in elections.”

You see, the problem is not that the United States has long been, in reality, an oligarchy. The problem is not the U.S. status as top holdout on basic human rights treaties, top opponent of international law, top abuser of the veto at the United Nations, top incarcerator, top environmental destroyer, top weapons dealer, top funder of dictatorships, top war launcher, and top coup sponsor. The problem is not that, rather than democratizing the United Nations, the U.S. government is attempting to create a new forum in which it is, uniquely and even more than before, more equal than everybody else. The problem is certainly not the rigged primary election that Russiagate was concocted to distract from. And in no way whatsoever is the problem the 85 foreign elections, counting just those we know of and can list, that the U.S. government has interfered in. The problem is Russia. And nothing sells weapons like Russia — though China is catching up.

The oddest thing about the democracy summit is that there will not be a democracy in sight. I mean not even in pretense or formality. The U.S. public votes on nothing, not even on whether to hold democracy summits. Back in the 1930s the Ludlow Amendment almost gave us the right to vote on whether any war could be started, but the State Department shut that effort down decisively, and it’s never returned.

The U.S. government is not just a system of elected representation rather than a democracy, and a highly corrupted one that fundamentally fails to represent, but it’s also driven by an anti-democratic culture in which politicians routinely brag to the public about ignoring public opinion polls and are applauded for it. When sheriffs or judges misbehave, the main criticism is usually that they were elected. A more popular reform than clean money or fair media is the anti-democratic imposition of term limits. Politics is such a dirty word in the United States that I received an email today from an activist group accusing one of the two U.S. political parties of “politicizing elections.” (It turned out that they had in mind various voter-suppression behavior, all too common in the world’s beacon of democracy, where the winner of every election is “none of the above” and the most popular party is “neither.”)

Not only will there be no national democracy in sight. There will also be nothing democratic happening at the summit. The handpicked gang of officials will not vote or achieve consensus on anything. The participation in governance that you could find even at an Occupy Movement event will be nowhere to be seen. And neither will there be any corporate journalists shrieking at them all “WHAT IS YOUR ONE SINGLE DEMAND? WHAT IS YOUR ONE SINGLE DEMAND?” They already have several completely vague and hypocritical goals on the website — produced, of course, without a shred of democracy being employed or a single tyrant being harmed in the process.

Not wishing to impose thousands of pages on you, let me select at random just one of the invitees to the Democracy Summit as identified by the U.S. State Department: the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here’s is just a bit of how the State Department describes the DRC in the last year:

“Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in an internal conflict, including killing of civilians, enforced disappearances or abductions, and torture and physical abuses or punishment, unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers by illegal armed groups, and other conflict-related abuses; serious restrictions on free expression and the press, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests of journalists, censorship, and criminal libel; interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious acts of official corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for violence against women; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of national, racial, and ethnic minority groups, and indigenous people; crimes involving violence or threat of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.”

So, maybe it’s not the “democracy” or the human rights. What could it be that gets you invited to these things? It’s not anything. Of 30 NATO countries, only 28 plus various countries targeted for addition, made the cut (Hungary and Turkey may have offended someone or failed to buy the right weapons). The point is simply to not invite Russia or China. That’s it. And both have already taken offense. So success is already achieved.

Rahm emanuel looking out on chicago skyline

Rahm Emanuel's Disdain For Black, Brown, And Poor Can't Be Cleared

A former Chicago Inspector General, Joe Ferguson, penned a letter to “Clear” Rahm Emanuel of wrongdoing in Laquan McDonald shooting — an act that means little — especially when you examine Emanuel’s actions as Mayor.

By Delmarie Cobb, Chicago Color

Thank you, Joe

Thank you Joe Ferguson for your letter supporting the confirmation of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Also, for clearing up the timeline and subsequent police reform measures implemented by Emanuel.

Of course, knowing how Chicago’s City Hall works, Emanuel would have plausible deniability baked into any chain of command when it comes to who knew what and when about the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. So, I have one response to Chicago’s former inspector general’s letter:

“I wouldn’t believe it if I told it myself,” as my mother would say.

Rahm emanuel looking out on chicago skyline

Six years ago this Thanksgiving weekend, I wrote a column supporting the protestors who were contemplating taking over North Michigan Avenue in response to the release of dashcam video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times.

Who would imagine that in less than 10 years, Chicagoans are witnessing a city that once was the land of opportunity for Blacks from the South become a death sentence for far too many of the city’s most vulnerable residents. Meanwhile, the fortunes of the former failed mayor continue to multiply.

Watching Emanuel introduce his children at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations confirmation hearing, all I could think of was how many Chicago children like McDonald won’t have the opportunity to be a Navy intelligence officer, or work for CNN or attend Princeton. How many of the city’s children have been killed by police? How many of the city’s children have been killed by gang violence? How many of the city’s children never returned to school after their high school buildings closed? How many of the city’s children missed out on getting the mental health care they need after half the clinics were shuttered?

Despite his testimony last month, there’s no evidence Emanuel took away any lessons from his time as Chicago’s mayor.

“I made a number of changes that dealt with oversight, accountability,” said Emanuel. “And it is clear to me the changes were inadequate to the level of distrust. They were on the best marginal; I thought I was addressing the issue, and I clearly missed the level of distrust and skepticism that existed, and that’s on me.”

Yet, in September 2013, Emanuel apologized for the Jon Burge era—calling it a “dark chapter.” Burge was the former CPD commander accused of torturing African American men into false confessions for murder and rape. While Burge’s deeds were revealed during Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration, Emanuel was aware for years that the cost to taxpayers would exceed $100 million in wrongful convictions and lawsuits. So, there’s no way he “…clearly missed the level of distrust and skepticism that existed….”

Following the McDonald revelation when then Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said, “Trust in the police is broken,” and called for a U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation of the Police Department’s use of excessive and deadly force, police shootings and whether Chicago has a pattern of discriminatory policing, the mayor’s initial reaction was to call her advice “misguided.” Even though, hours earlier, he had just fired CPD Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

All along the way, Emanuel had many opportunities to become a national leader on police reform. In 2016, 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston introduced a 40-page ordinance to replace the Independent Police Review Authority with a truly independent police oversight agency.

“An Independent Civilian Police Monitor is needed, because you can’t keep shuffling the deck with the same people and call that accountability,” explained Hairston. “You must put something in place that is meaningful in that it’s supported by a budget, there’s a revenue source and there’s an opportunity for input by the people of Chicago.”

Hairston’s ordinance was sent to committee, where legislation goes to die. Instead, Emanuel created the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which we see is only as independent and progressive as the person heading it.

In March 2018, when the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability and the Civilian Police Accountability Council introduced ordinances to establish a civilian board for police oversight, Emanuel once again ordered his public safety chair to send them to committee. It wasn’t until this year that a compromise ordinance by both community groups passed the City Council.

Under Emanuel, city funding for CeaseFire was allowed to end. The organization, which uses former gang members to deter violence, watched as homicides went from a 75% reduction to a 136% increase in some wards from 2014 to 2017. CeaseFire, now known as Cure Violence, was a leader in identifying gang violence as a public health crisis.

In 2017, Emanuel had a chance to allocate $5 million to CeaseFire for violence prevention from $15 million in unspent property tax rebate money. Instead, he wanted to use the money to fix up parks, buy police body cameras, boost after-school programs and plant trees. Disappointingly, only four Black aldermen voted against Emanuel and for preventing violence.

My objection to Emanuel becoming Japan’s next ambassador was never based solely on the McDonald cover-up. In my Washington DC statement, imploring senators to Reject Rahm, I referenced the police and city’s actions were part of a long trail of tears under Emanuel’s watch.

Personally, I don’t think we should reward Emanuel. I don’t think we should rehabilitate his reputation. I don’t think he should ever hold a position of public trust again.

Through his policies, Emanuel showed nothing but disdain for the city’s Black, brown and poor residents. We are all paying for the decades of disinvestment in these communities by Daley and Emanuel. Joe Ferguson, who had a front-row seat through both administrations, knows this better than anyone.

fidel castro and cuban flag next to joe biden

Cuba: Five Years After Fidel

Five years after Fidel Castro died, the U.S. still threatens Cuba.

By Rosa Miriam Elizalde, Independent Media Institute

Fidel Castro died five years ago, but I feel like decades have passed in Cuba since November 25, 2016. Trump arrived and passed slowly with his string of sanctions that have felt worse than ever because of the pandemic. Then came Biden with his faint-hearted court, reeling us each day with veiled or direct threats, without daring to fulfill his timid campaign promises.

In five years, particularly in the last two years, incendiary slang has been unleashed on social media and international media networks, whose target is not only the Cuban government. They want to erase any trace of Fidel Castro. Since the news of the Cuban leader’s death, there have been hundreds of tributes for him from around the world; but simultaneously, a bombardment of calumnies have been launched against his memory to try to transform into ruins the sovereign, popular and democratic project of the revolution that he led.

fidel castro and cuban flag next to joe biden

To present him as the symbol of defeat and failure, he is shown as a lonely idealist who led Cuba to ruin. They charge all his actions (real or invented) with negativity and perversity to villainize him and paint him as deserving of outrage. There are those who cynically excuse themselves in demystifying.

But none of this is enough to dent the symbol. The verbiage of hate professionals and demystifiers ends up feeding the figure of the man who led the armed struggle in the Sierra Maestra, who opened his chest to bullets and hurricanes, who led internationalist wars of liberation in Africa, who survived 637 attempts on his life and whom Cubans always saw on the front line battling against injustice, selfishness and individualism. Fidel stood against foolishness and arrogance, facing it with humor or with actions that sharply contrast with the caricature that his detractors make of him. I know of this very well.

I perfectly remember the press conference held in Havana, in April 1990, with the echoes of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the background and while Washington already had “its napkin spread over its lap, ready to have the island for lunch with a knife and fork,” as Eduardo Galeano then wrote. Fidel warned journalists that an attack on Cuba would repeat the feat of Numantia, the Iberian city that resisted the attack of the uneducated but powerful Romans in 146 BC, preferring self-sacrifice rather than surrender.

Any Cuban understood, he said, why those people resisted surrendering their language, their gods, their ways of life, their fields and their cities to the empire. For virtues and defects, they preferred, in any case, without hesitation, their own. A Spanish journalist asked how it was possible that he summoned the people to the holocaust. “If your ancestors had thought like you, you would now be asking me in French,” replied the revolutionary leader.

For Fidel, the Numantine idea was never fanaticism or suicidal nationalism. While this dialogue was taking place, a Cuban scientific laboratory was producing and trying to commercialize the first vaccine against type B meningitis, which had been the main health problem for children on the island and killed 85,000 people every year in the world. The United States government wanted the drug, but refused to pay a single penny to the government in Havana and made it a condition to exchange it for food. The main researcher, Conchita Campa, was surprised by Fidel’s response when she had to tell him the news: “The children who are going to be saved in the United States are not to blame for such arrogance. Of course, we are going to exchange it for food.” Thus arrived the first gringo chickens that Cubans ate after the naval blockade imposed by John F. Kennedy in 1961.

It feels as if time has been drawn out and everything happened again simultaneously. The 1959 revolution, the hostility of the United States, the initiatory ’60s and the most inflexible ’70s, the stable ’80s, the insufferable ’90s after the Soviet fall and the difficulties of everyday life. We went through the hardest side of the blockade and the threat of a military invasion, like the Bay of Pigs. We’ve lived on the closed island and on the island open to tourism. Because of the lines, the disease and the vaccines. For the terrorist and celebrity Miami, and for the invisible Miami of migrants who want normalization in order to reunite with their families. We went through everything in these five years, but there is something that happened for the first time. Fidel Castro began to exist in other ways. Still, he is here and will continue to be.

F35 burning through American dollars

Build Back Better Is Gutted As NDAA Wastes Billions With Little Opposition

The Build Back Better Act doesn’t get the “must-pass” treatment the NDAA does, of course — yet another testament to the perverse priorities of the people running the show.

By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout

The drinking water in Flint, Michigan. The ashes of Paradise, California. A tub of petroleum that once was the Gulf of Mexico. Rising seas, and storms that eat cities. Black people murdered by cops, protesters gunned down by teenagers with war weapons, and children shot by children in the ersatz safety of their own homes and schools. A lethal pandemic close to completing its second year, fueled by a vapid anti-science movement with the vocal blessing of a disgraced former president.

F35 burning through American dollars

Ponder all of this, and so much more besides, and I’ll bet my left shoe your absolute last thought would be, “You know what? This country really needs 91 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and a pair of new Virginia-class nuclear submarines.” What the hell, it’s only $9.3 billion we’re talking about. Never mind the fact that the F-35 keeps falling out of the sky, and the subs would be of better use studying North Atlantic right whale depopulation off the coast of Cape Cod.

Here we are, though, on the verge of authorizing the spending of $740 billion for items just like that. The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2022, which authorizes the military budget and establishes defense policy, runs close to 70 fine-printed pages, and reads like a Christmas list compiled by the most terrifying child who ever lived. This is only the stuff we’re selling to ourselves, mind you; our list of global arms sales would fell a forest for the paper.

On top of the F-35s and the submarines, there are two Arleigh Burke class destroyers ($3.7 billion), 11 CH-53K King Stallion helicopters ($1.5 billion), 17 F-15EX fighters ($1.8 billion), 92 M1 Abrams tank upgrades ($1.4 billion), $4.8 billion for the Columbia class submarine program, and a nifty $4.9 billion for Space Force “system development and demonstration” and “advanced component and development prototype R and D funding for technologies including space situational awareness, domain control, advanced communications, and related technologies and systems.” SPACE FORCE!!

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amazon boxes stacked upside down making a frown face

"Cheated And Got Caught", Amazon Union Election Gets Redo In Alabama

“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along – that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace.”

By Alina Selyukh, NPR

Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama are getting a new vote on whether to form the company’s first unionized warehouse in the United States.

A U.S. labor board official is ordering a revote after an agency review found Amazon improperly pressured warehouse staff to vote against joining a union, tainting the original election enough to scrap its results. The decision was issued Monday by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board. Amazon is expected to appeal.

amazon boxes stacked upside down making a frown face

The news puts the warehouse in Bessemer, outside Birmingham, back in the spotlight as a harbinger of labor-organizing efforts at Amazon, which is now America’s second-largest private employer with more than 950,000 employees.

The union drive is being led by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Its president, Stuart Appelbaum, hailed Monday’s development:

“Today’s decision confirms what we were saying all along – that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace.”

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