Trump to meet Putin at G20 summit, White House says   
US intelligence agencies agree Russia was behind last year’s hack of Democratic email systems and tried to influence the 2016 election.
          NYT retracts claim that ‘17 US intelligence agencies’ verified Russian DNC email hack   
Preview The New York Times has retracted its claim that all 17 US intelligence agencies agreed that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic emails in an effort to influence the 2016 election in favor of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Read Full Article at RT.com
          Deutsche Bank refuses Democrats' demand to give up Trump’s financial details   
Preview Germany's biggest bank has rejected a request by US House Democrats to provide details of President Donald Trump's finances. Deutsche Bank is citing privacy laws.
Read Full Article at RT.com
          House passes ‘Kate’s Law’ and ‘No Sanctuary for Criminals Act’ targeting illegal immigration    
Preview Two immigration bills have passed the House, mostly along party lines. Two dozen Democrats voted with the GOP on “Kate’s Law” to impose tougher sentences on illegal re-entry into the US, while another vote on “sanctuary cities” was even more partisan.
Read Full Article at RT.com
          Sen. Cory Booker On Health Care And The Democrats' Future   
Rachel Martin talks to Democratic Sen. Cory Booker about the progressive strategy to stop the GOP health care bill — and what Democrats need to do to get back on top.
          Re: Taking the red pill at an expo in Bozeman   
There is no such thing as an "anti-democratic libertarian." Some hate the Democratic Party more than others, but not democracy itself.
Posted by Jon Lester
          Reform Roundup: June 30th, 2017   

Catch up on the week’s electoral reform news with our round up of folks across the country writing and talking about FairVote reform vision. This week, Congressman Don Beyer introduced the Fair Representation Act (FRA), H.R. 3057.

  • Congressman Don Beyer wrote for The Washington Post about needing to change how we elect the House of Representatives. “Applied nationally, we would have more moderate Democrats from districts leaning Republican, and vice versa, creating a type of politician — now nearly extinct — known as a ‘bridge builder.’ Many members would share constituents with members of the other major party, creating incentives to work together on legislation affecting the district.”

  • Anita Earls wrote for The Nation about how the Fair Representation Act would put an end to gerrymandering and improve representation for communities of color. “There is a way forward. If we want to stop gerrymandering, and move beyond constant litigation over how lines are drawn, we must rethink the way we do districting itself. That’s why the Fair Representation Act creates such an exciting path forward. In states like Texas, for example, where black and Latino populations live close together, those communities are often pitted against each other for the one majority-minority seat. A multi-winner district, and a genuine multi-racial slate, would decrease tension between racial minorities, while increasing their voice.”

  • FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie and Board Chair Krist Novoselic spoke to Pedro Echevarria of the Washington Journal C-SPAN about FairVote’s 25th Anniversary year and the introduction of the Fair Representation Act. “With multi-member districts, you don’t need to receive 50% of the vote, which is what you do when you’re just electing one person like president. You can lower that share to whatever is proportionate to the number of seats, so if you have 5 seats it will take about a 5th of the vote. And by doing that, it opens up every single corner of every single state to meaningful engagement and participation and representation. One party would not sweep all of the seats anywhere.” 

  • The American Prospect reported on the Fair Representation Act and its potential to end Congressional Dysfunction. "The bill would not only institute nonpartisan redistricting commissions and a new voting system designed to create a proportionally representational Congress, but also aims to dramatically reduce the number of safe seats for each party and eliminate the unopposed re-election of representatives. In 2014, 31 congressional representatives were re-elected unopposed."

  • Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and David De la Fuente of ThirdWay wrote in U.S. News & World Report about why voters need the Fair Representation Act. “If policymakers don’t offer solutions to fix our electoral system and restore faith that our representative democracy is working the way it should, voters will continue to react with anger and deliver wave elections where they “throw the bums out” every other year. As we’ve seen over the past few election cycles, these reactive waves make it even harder to govern, further contributing to the cycle of frustration that led to them in the first place.”

  • The Alexandria News reports on the introduction of the Fair Representation Act, introduced by Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia’s 8th district. “The Fair Representation Act is the most comprehensive approach to improving congressional elections in American history,” said Rob Richie, the executive director of FairVote. “It creates an impartial, national standard that gets at the core of FairVote’s mission: Giving voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.”

 

 


          The Fair Representation Act has been introduced to Congress   

I’m sponsoring the Fair Representation Act because Congress is broken. It is hyper-partisan. It is far too polarized. The FRA creates a structure where members of Congress are incentivized to work together. This is the right thing to do to give voters the strong voice that they deserve in our elections.

--Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08)

On June 26, 2017, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) introduced H.R. 3057: The Fair Representation Act. He was joined by co-sponsors Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Ro Khanna (D-CA). This is a historic moment. The Fair Representation Act is the most comprehensive approach to reforming congressional elections in United States history. It would truly realize the vision of the House of Representatives as “The People’s House.”

The Fair Representation Act

FairVote has called for expanding the use of multi-winner ranked choice voting in United States elections since its founding 25 years ago. Ranked choice voting can replace the broken, zero-sum, winner-take-all system - in which the biggest group of voters in a district are the only ones earning representation - with fair representation for all. In this era of fierce partisan divisions, nowhere needs this change more than the House of Representatives.

RCV-ballot-09.pngUnder the Fair Representation Act, every state would use ranked choice voting to elect its Representatives. Voters would be free to rank their choices without fear of “spoilers.” Instead of only one candidate winning with the most votes, several candidates would win based on how many votes they earn. For example, in a state like Oklahoma or Connecticut that elects 5 winners, 17% of voters can elect 1 of the 5 winners; 34% of voters can elect 2 of the 5 winners; and so on. A majority of voters can always elect a majority of seats, and everyone earns their fair share.

States that elect up to 5 winners will not need any districts at all. Larger states will use districts, but the districts will elect 3, 4, or 5 winners each. That means that a state like Massachusetts that elects 9 Representatives will divide into equal thirds, with each of the three districts electing 3 winners with ranked choice voting. To adopt a district map, these states will form independent redistricting commissions composed of ordinary state citizens (not politicians or lobbyists) who will operate transparently and hold hearings around the state to find the district map that makes the most sense for their state.

The use of ranked choice voting in multi-winner elections will transform the House of Representatives. The current system only allows the biggest group of voters in each district to win representation, all other voices are silenced. As a result, there are millions of voters who prefer Democrats stuck in safe Republican districts and millions of voters who prefer Republicans stuck in safe Democratic districts, women and people of color are under-represented, and everyone has too few choices. The Fair Representation Act can elevate those voices, giving them more power to elect candidates they support and who will go to Congress to work for them.

A Historic Moment

Under the Constitution, Congress has the responsibility to act when our federal elections are not working. It has acted on that responsibility many times in the past, passing laws changing how we elect Congress in 1842 (requiring single-winner districts), 1872 (equal populations per representative), 1901 (requiring that districts be “compact”), 1929 (repealing the requirement to use districts), and 1967 (re-imposing the requirement to use districts). It has been 50 years since Congress has acted in this arena, even as the current system fails to deliver on the promise of a representative House.

Representative Beyer has shown tremendous leadership in holding Congress to its constitutional responsibilities. The attention it attracted from the public demonstrates the hunger that voters have for a more empowering system. FairVote livestreamed Rep. Beyer’s press conference, which was viewed over 44,000 times and ultimately reached over 554,000 people.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FFairVoteReform%2Fvideos%2F1622439381102173%2F&show_text=0&width=560560315border:none;overflow:hiddenno0truetrue

The day after the bill’s introduction, Rep. Beyer published an opinion piece in the Washington Post explaining why he introduced the Act. It begins “Democracy is in crisis. Even as the country is deeply divided along class and ideological lines, it seems to be unified in its frustration with our current brand of politics.” Other voices have also weighed in on the need for the Fair Representation Act, including:

As more media coverage happens in the coming days and weeks, we'll add it to the list on our website.

You Can Help the Fair Representation Act Gain Momentum

Now that the vehicle for transforming elections to the U.S. House of Representatives is a bill in Congress, you can help to move the conversation forward. Contact your Representative today to ask them to support the Fair Representation Act. You can find your Representative here, and email them a letter supporting the Fair Representation Act. A sample letter is provided here. You also could consider calling your Member, which increases their likelihood of responding. Better still would be to form a group to have a meeting with your Member and their district office staff. 

Finally, we want to keep adding names to our petition in support of the Act. We currently have over 1500 signatures. Please consider sharing the petition online and drawing people’s attention to our new video and our public resources, at FairRepresentation.com


          Why Do Democrats Think The Only Way To Win Is To Lie?   
Democrats

By Joe Messina I have a chapter in my book, “Ramblings of a Right Wing Bible Thumping White Guy’ called. “Why do they have to lie to win?” I always feel that if the issue or product you have is true and good then it will stand on its own, don’t lie about it. Democrats […]

The post Why Do Democrats Think The Only Way To Win Is To Lie? appeared first on The Lid.


          Look at possible conflicts of interest in Trump team's OneWest Bank probes, 2 Democrats urge   

Two House Democrats want Congress to look into possible conflicts of interest in the Trump administration’s handling of investigations into Pasadena’s OneWest Bank — a bank formerly headed by now-Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Al Green (D-Texas) said...


          Assembly Democrats denounce threats made after single-payer healthcare bill was sidelined   
none
          Look at possible conflicts of interest in Trump team's OneWest Bank probes, 2 Democrats urge   
none
          Decent Launches Global Media Distribution Platform   
Decent Launch

Free and open communication has long been an essential component of a successful democracy. Unfortunately, money, power and influence over time have stifled today’s media environment adversely impacting both content producers and consumers alike.

In an effort to democratize creative content, DECENT has officially launched its blockchain-based, global media distribution platform. The name is an acronym for Decentralized Network; Encrypted & Secure; Content Distribution System; Elimination of 3rd Parties; New Way of Online Publishing; Timestamped Data Records.

Designed to bring more transparency and fairness to the media industry, DECENT allows artists to seamlessly distribute digital content for immediate payment and without hefty fees. Peer-to-peer in its orientation, consumers decide the merits of a certain piece of content posted through a Yelp-like community rating system. The content, however, cannot be censored or removed.

This blockchain initiative endeavors to disrupt the legacy world of media distribution by allowing artists more freedom and control over the ownership and distribution of their content, all without compromising on security. It represents a potential gamechanger for the massive global media and content distribution industry — one that’s estimated to grow from $1.7 trillion in 2016 to over $2 trillion in 2019.

DECENT was founded in 2016 by two friends, Matej Michalko and Matej Boda, from Slovakia. It sprouted from a shared vision that blockchain technology could fuel a coordinated system of digital content publishing and sharing throughout the world.

Funding for DECENT was fueled by an ICO campaign last summer, which raised more than 5,881 BTC, at that time valued at $4.2 million USD. There were 4,300 ICO participants in total and no other key funding partners.

Michalko recounted the journey leading up to his own personal discovery of blockchain technology and its potential uses for the content distribution space. “I’ve been extensively involved in Bitcoin since 2011, even mining it from my own laptop at the beginning. I quickly realized that the innovative technology behind Bitcoin had the potential to change the modern world.”

When Michalko started to delve further into blockchain technology, he found a seemingly endless list of use cases the new technology could support. “I became determined to use blockchain technology to create something revolutionary that would be beneficial for people on a global scale. A short time later ongoing discussions between myself and our future co-founder Matej Boda quickly led to DECENT being born.”

He says that DECENT Network is a reaction to the issues that the majority of content producers face nowadays in the entertainment and media industry. “There is too much artificial complexity and too many barriers in the industry affecting both the access to market and income of the content owners.”

DECENT’S digital model allows artists to distribute any form of content, including written, music, videos, ebooks and pictures. These distribution channels are free of third-party influence, meaning that artists can also manage their intellectual property rights and set their own pricing.

One of the innovative adaptations that distinguishes DECENT from other blockchain platforms is the network’s reputation management system. This allows content creators who share their digital work on the platform to build a lifetime reputation, based on ratings from those who purchase content on the platform. DECENT Network also allows content creators to instantly receive payment when someone downloads their content, without any middleman interference.

Michalko believes that DECENT can break the trajectory in which a majority of power is concentrated in the hands of a few players controlling the industry. “Artists, filmmakers and writers lose control over their work and depend on the mercy of the ‘big guys.’ We designed DECENT Network to do away with all that and bring more transparency and fairness to the digital content industry.”

DECENT estimates that writers, for example, lose a healthy 30–75 percent chunk of their earnings when publishing with Amazon. Similarly, musicians, through licensing agreements, lose around 30 percent when selling a track on iTunes. Blockchain technology therefore serves as a mechanism that helps writers and musicians keep more money, while connecting with their audiences directly.

Michalko says that artists will be paid for their downloaded content through DECENT’s own cryptocurrency called “DCT,” which will be launched together with DECENT Network. Other payment options, he says, will be available in the future. “Artists will no longer have to wait months before seeing a penny from their work. And at the time of launch, DECENT Network will be a completely free-of-charge service for artists.”

Michalko hopes that by  2020, DECENT Network will have become the number one worldwide media sharing platform. “We hope to bring more transparency and fairness to the digital content industry for both creators and consumers. I hope that with our launch people will realize the advantage of DECENT Network over other content distribution platforms.”

The post Decent Launches Global Media Distribution Platform appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.


          Michigan will not have an anti-abortion license plate, thanks to Gov. Snyder   
Governor Rick Snyder has vetoed a bill that would have created a state-issued “Choose Life” fundraising license plate, with proceeds going to the Choose Life Fund.

Snyder said in a statement that he was concerned that “The ‘Choose Life’ license plate is a political message that has the potential to bitterly divide millions of Michiganders." In his view, it is "not appropriate for a state-issued license plate.”

House Republicans approved the bill in May on a near party-line vote, according to the Free Press. Reps. Robert Kosowski of Westland and Brian Elder of Bay City were the only Democrats who supported the legislation.…
          Antu Barva by P. L. "PuLa" Deshpande   
Fourteen years ago today, Purushottam Laxman Deshpande, arguably the most influential and beloved person from Maharashtra, died at the age of 81. He left behind a gargantuan legacy in the form of his books, plays, songs, movies, essays, social work, but more than that, the lasting impact he has had on Maharashtra. Every couple of years, I translate one of his essays or short stories on this blog. This time, I have chosen Antu Barva, a fictionalized life sketch that he created as an amalgam of several people he knew in Konkan. It is not exactly LOL funny, but is light-hearted while still tugging at your heart-strings. It is meant as a depiction of the tough life in Konkan in the middle of the 20th century, and the sort of complex and poignant characters such a life spawns.

But as somber as the basic subject matter is, PuLa manages to inject humor into it, even if the humor is dark. When I first read Antu Barva, I just read it as a slightly humorous life sketch. As I have re-read it and re-heard its narration over the years, I have come to recognize it as something beyond just that. It is one of PuLa's best allegorical social commentaries in my opinion. He was duly recognized for Vyakti Aani Valli, the book that this sketch appears in, with a Sahitya Akademi Puraskaar. In that book, I think this is THE most impressive and multi-layered sketch.

For years, I considered translating Antu Barva here but was too intimidated given how nuanced it is. PuLa gave Antu a specific Konkani "voice" (in text form as well as when he narrated the sketch for TV) that is impossible to translate. No matter how well I tried, I thought I would end up doing injustice to the original work. This is in addition to the usual difficulties in translating PuLa's wordplay and nuanced observations. So it is with a great sense of trepidation that I am even attempting this today. A LOT will get lost in translation. But I hope PuLa's fans will forgive me any errors. Because I think this particular piece is one of the greatest literary achievements from an Indian and it deserves a wider audience.

Miss you, PuLa. Bhool-chook maaf kara.

Ratnagiri's middle lane has been home to some towering personalities over the years. God used a unique formula when creating these people. These people tend to be a metaphorical amalgam of Ratnagiri's most famous products - sweet mango, rough jackfruit, hard coconut, irritating colocasia leaves, and intense betel nuts whose one bite will make your heart jump up your throat.    

It is in this unique Ratnagiri soil that Antu Barva grew and ripened. Actually, Antu's age doesn't really justify people casually calling him just "Antu". When I first met him 12-14 years ago, not just his stubble, but even the hair on his ears and chest had turned white. His teeth had mostly gone "Annu Gogtya".

Going Annu Gogtya = falling.

This is an idomatic phrase that Antu Barva coined. A lawyer from Ratnagiri named Annu Gogte has been standing in the local elections for many years. Standing and then falling. Repeatedly, without even coming close to winning. So even if a bucket falls in a well, Antu asks "has the bucket gone Annu?"

When someone is talking about old Antu, they just refer to him in the singular casual "Antu". As it is, characters from Konkan are quite singular. But no one calls Antu just "Antu" to his face.  They call him Antu sheth!

True blue Brahmin Antu got this trader caste suffix "sheth" decades ago. After all Antu himself had committed a sin justifying this demotion. During the first world war, Antu started a shop near the docks. It failed spectacularly even before the Treaty of Versailles. But that short-lived stint as a shopkeeper was enough to turn Antu into Antu sheth.

After that, no one remembers Antu doing anything specific to make a living. He manages to somehow score at least two square meals a day from somewhere. He has a little plot of land with a garden that has a couple of dozen coconut and Alphonso mango trees, sprinkled with the odd jackfruit and tamarind tree. He has a little single-room shack on that land. He has the right to draw water from the nearby well. Antu sheth manages to get by on all this.

I first met Antu at Bapu Hegishte's store. I had gone there to buy some cigarettes when Antu's face peered out from behind a newspaper. He slid his reading glasses up his forehead and said,

"You're Lawyer saheb's son-in-law, right?"

"Yes" I replied.

"Ahha! I recognized you right away! Please, have a seat, please. Bapu, some tea for our jawaibapu (a respectful term for son-in-law)!"

I had no idea who this guy was, suddenly acting so familiar. Antu sheth himself explained,

"Your father-in-law is a good friend of mine. Tell him Antu Barva said hello."

"Sure."

"Hmmm....when did you come from Pune?"

"Two days ago."

"Of course....the first Diwali after you got married....haha...ask him for a Ford car!"

"He is your friend. Why don't you tell him?"

"Haha, you're from Pune after all. Can't get the last word with you." he laughed. "So...staying long or just a flying visit?"

"Just a short trip. I'm leaving in a couple of days."

"Excellent! It's always good to keep such visits short. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that. Don't end up like that Kasopkar's son-in-law. He set up camp for six months. Finally Kasopkar lost his patience and made him plow his land! When a son-in-law stays with you for too long, he starts feeling like a pain in the neck, right?"

"You're right." I nodded.

"Bapusheth, I hope you recognized our lawyer's son-in-law. We are both your father-in-law's clients, jawaibapu."

Bapu Hegishte smiled and folded his hands in greeting.

"Welcome. Would you like to have some tea?" he asked.

"No, it's okay. It's really hot right now."

"Of course, it's always going to be hot in Ratnagiri!" Antu jumped in. "You can't sleep in a cowshed and then complain about the stink of cow piss! If Ratnagiri had cool weather, they'd have called it Shimla, not Ratnagiri!"

Before I could say anything, Antu continued,

"But the heat is way worse in your neighborhood with all those houses next to each other. Come to my garden near the beach. My garden is...how do you say...."aircondition"!"

Antu sheth said the last words in English and laughed, and then added,

"That's our country joke, jawaibapu!"

Then he addressed Hegishte again.

"Bapusheth, did you know our jawaibapu here is a writer? Writes plays and movies and what not. Behave properly when he is around or he'll write a hilarious farce about you."

The pride I felt on my fame having spread even to someone like Antu Barva was dashed by Bapu Hegishte's next question. Bapusheth looked me up and down carefully for a few seconds and said,

"What do you do?"

"What the hell do you mean what does he do?" Antu thundered. "Are you insane, Hegishte? Take out that pile of raddi old newspapers and open them. You'll see his name and picture in dozens of places! He makes movies!"

"Movies!!?? Really??" Hegishte's expression changed to one of wonderment and he looked at me as if I was God.

"Jawaibapu, speaking of movies, can I ask you a question if you don't mind?"

I could see the naughty expression on Antusheth's face as he asked me this.

"Sure, go ahead."

"How much money do you make from one movie?"

This wasn't my first trip to Konkan. So by now, I had gotten used to dealing with such intensely personal questions.

"That really varies from movie to movie." I deflected.

"But still....I mean I have read that you get like a million or a million and a half."

"No way! There isn't nearly that kind of money in Marathi films."

"Yeah, but still. Even if you don't get fistfuls, you must be getting at least 2-3 pinchfulls?"

"You get it sometimes, and also lose it sometimes." I stuck to being vague.

"Well of course, it's a business after all. When it comes to business, you win some, you lose some. It's all part of the game."

Antu sheth got philosophical. But only for a moment.

"Can I ask you one more question? Only if you don't get angry."

"What's there to get angry about? Go ahead."

"Well..you know....whatever we read about these film actresses in magazines and all....is that real or is it fake like Gangadhar Basthe's "real" Belgaum butter?"

"What do you mean all this about film actresses?" I kept a straight face and pretended to not get what he was saying.

"Quite a skillful guy you are, jawaibapu. Skillful! You'll make a great witness in court!" Antu sheth was having none of it. "All this about film actresses as in...the whole index finger nostril thing."

I didn't immediately get what he meant by the whole index finger nostril thing. So Antu sheth gently tapped his index finger against his nostril and winked. Fortunately, before I had to say anything, a waiter arrived with the tea Hegishte had ordered.

"Looks like all the cows in Ratnagiri are still pregnant, Jhampya!" Antu made a sarcastic remark to the waiter on the color of the tea. And then he poured the tea in the saucer and started slurping it.

Actually, Antu sheth could have just said to the waiter in plain words that the tea was low on milk. But he preferred the "all the cows are still pregnant" phrasing. Why just Antu sheth? Almost everyone from that middle lane in Ratnagiri spoke in that sarcastic obtuse way.

By now, Antu sheth and I have become good friends. In the last decade or so, whenever I have gone to Ratnagiri, I have spent time with him. He always included me in his group of friends, taught me the ganjifa card games they played. And over the years, I heard a lot monologues on the odd philosophy of life that those men in their 60s had developed.

I even learned all the idiomatic phrases the group had come up with. They all dressed similar. A cotton loincloth from the waist below, a small cotton scarf on the shoulder, worn-out sandals, one hand holding a walking stick, and the other holding a jackfruit. Dressed like that, Antu sheth would roam around in the neighborhood calling his friends to join him every afternoon.

"Govindbhat! Wanna play a couple of hands?"

"Paranjape? Are you awake or have you turned into a python?"

I too became a part of their card game gang. If once in a while, the card game wasn't really panning out well, Antu would put the cards down and say to me,

"Jawaibapu, why don't you sing a Malkauns or something? Godbolya, bash a little tabla with our guest. Khaju sheth, open your decrepit harmonium."

And then we'd have an impromptu jam session for a bit at Antu sheth's orders.

"Jawaibapu, your pipes are kick-ass!" he'd compliment my singing in his unique way.

Every other year or so, I'd visit Ratnagiri and attend Antu sheth's court. But with each visit, the court seemed to be getting smaller.

"Antu sheth, haven't seen Damu kaka around." I asked once.

"Who? Damu Nene? He is living it up! I am told Rambha is rubbing oil on his bald head, and Urvashi is airing him with a fan!"

"What????"

"What do you mean what? Damu Nene got transferred from Ratnagiri!" and Antu Sheth pointed to the sky.

"Oh!" I finally understood what he meant. "I am so sorry. I had no idea."

"Why would you have any idea about it? Do you think that they're going to announce on the radio that Damu Nene has croaked? His family did pay for an obituary in the newspaper though. Heh, they wrote he was loving, caring, friendly, pious, and what not. What do the newspaper folks care? As long as you are paying, they will publish any nonsense."

Antu continued in his characteristic manner.

"Damu Nene and loving? Hmpf! Even when he was lying dead on the pyre, the furrow on his brow was intact! One day he decided to sleep outdoors because it was too hot. They found him dead the next morning. Lucky bugger. Died on Ashadhi Ekadashi too! So there were two processions from Ratnagiri that day. One for Lord Vithoba and another for Damu Nene. Damu died on Ashadhi. And then on Dussehra, Dattu Paranjape crossed the border and did seemolanghan. The first guy croaked, the second guy croaked.....now waiting for the third. They say things happen in three."

Antu looked at me mischievously and shrugged.

And that's the essence of Antu Barva for you. Standing at less than 5 feet, bronze-fair complexion, small pockmarks on his face, small gray eyes, creased skin belying his advanced age, half his teeth fallen....or "gone Annu"...leading to a new habit of poking his tongue through the gaps while talking.... and with all this, weighing in at barely 100 lbs.

Every aspect of Antu Barva's earthly existence was getting worn out with each passing year except for two - the nasal booming voice and the slick intelligence fed by decades of rubbing coconut oil on his head.

It wasn't just Antu sheth. Almost all the men his age from that part of Ratnagiri were of a similar bent....which was a crooked bent. Their language was unnecessarily complex and their attitude exceedingly cynical. They didn't feel happy if someone did well, and didn't feel sad if a tragedy befell someone. There was no joy for births, no mourning for deaths. Most of them apart from Antu didn't really like music, but didn't dislike it either. And when it came to food, the taste and flavors didn't matter, as long as their belly got filled. The engine of their life never really faltered when it ran out of steam, nor did it go fast when it did have some steam. But the road their lives took was like every road in Konkan- serpentine.

That's the hand life had dealt them. Even though their lives were full of the wholesome coconut tree, their fates and thus their tastes leaned less towards the sweet creamy inside of the coconut, and more towards its tough shell.


One summer, a second-rate theater company from Mumbai was touring Ratnagiri staging Ram Ganesh Gadkari's famous play Ekach Pyala. I went to watch it. The production was barely competent in the first act. At intermission, I walked outside to the hissing clinks of soda bottles being opened. Under a Kitson lamp, I saw Antu sheth's diminutive form. He was talking to the fur-cap clad manager of the theater company.

"So....how's the attendance?" Antu sheth asked.

"Not bad." the manager gruffly replied.

"Not bad? Most of the chairs seem empty. Why don't you let me in for half price?"

"No way!" the manager shook his head rudely.

"Why are you brushing me away like a lizard? I heard the first act from out here anyway. The guy playing Sindhu doesn't seem to be very good."

[aside - in the early-to-mid 20th century in orthodox Maharashtra, it was taboo for women to perform on stage. So much like in Shakespeare's days, female parts were usually played by men. The legendary Bal Gandharva excelled at this and one of his most famous roles was playing Sindhu in the first staging of Ekach Pyala.]

"The guy playing Sindhu doesn't seem to be very good." Antu sheth said. "He sang 'lage hridayi hurhur' like a squeaking mouse. Did you ever hear how Bal Gandharva sang it?"

The manager got pissed off.

"I'm not begging you to come watch it!" he thundered.

"But the town is full of your advertising boards begging us to come watch it." Antu sheth instantly replied. "And yesterday your people were going door to door with fliers. As it is, it's mainly empty chairs you are showing this play to. How about four annas?"

"Four annas? What is this? A monkey performing on the street?"

"That's better than this! They perform first and then circulate a plate for money. Why don't you try that? If the next act is better than the first one, I'll pay you an extra four annas!"

The people standing around them started laughing and the manager got even more upset. That's when Antu sheth noticed me.

"Namaskar, jawaibapu! How's it going? How's Ekach Pyala?"

"It's okay." I said.

"I'm sure you got a complimentary pass. You're from the same community. I have heard that barbers don't charge each other for shaves."

"No, nothing like that. See, I bought a ticket."

"Then why a wishy-washy response like "it's okay"? You've paid hard-earned money for this, haven't you? Assert your rights as a paying customer. Call it what it is. Utter crap. Especially that guy playing Sindhu is totally useless!"

"What do you mean the guy playing Sindhu? It's a woman playing the role." I told him.

"WHAT??" Antu sheth looked genuinely shocked. "You're kidding me! That voice and that built! If she decides, she can lift Sudhakar up like a baby! Sindhu indeed.......more like Sindhudurg!"

"So you watched the play after all?"

"For a few minutes. Moved the curtains from the window and had a peek. Hmpf! Even gypsy performers are better than these idiots."

Antu sheth spat out another unsolicited opinion and walked away.

But that's pretty much what his life was - spitting out unsolicited opinions. I knew Antu for so many years, but I never found out much about his family situation. Once Anna Sane from Antu's court had let slip a mention of his son.

"What? Antu sheth has a son?" I asked.

"Of course he has a son. Not only that, his son is a Collector!" Anna Sane nonchalantly said.

"Collector???"

"Yup. He's in charge of collecting tickets on Byculla station." he deadpanned without letting a single muscle move.

"Doesn't look like he helps out his father financially."

"He does sometimes. When he can. He has his own family. Besides, a Western Railway compartment has been attached to a Central Railway train."

A PhD student could do a dissertation on those guys' peculiar idioms and phrases. I was well-versed in the language by now but it took me a few moments to realize that this was code for an inter-religion marriage.

"So you see, Antu sheth has trouble with his post-bath rituals at his son's place. Plus apparently his son is also into some other Anglicized habits if you know what I mean. So how can Antu sheth spend too much time there? Still, once Antu sheth swallowed all the insults and went to Mumbai to see his grandson. Came back looking like he had messed up a math problem."

"Every Dussehra and Diwali, Antu gets his son's love in the form of a money order. Not much, maybe 5-10 rupees. For a few days after that, Antu acts like he's won the lottery and splurges as much as he can. Which isn't much."

"Understandable." I said. "After all, how much can a ticket collector's pay be?"

"Yeah, the pay is pretty meager. But one hears that a ticket collector can also make a little more on the side, especially in holiday season if you know what I mean." Anna said. "Nothing wrong with it of course. If he has an opportunity to make some money, why shouldn't he? You know how it is in this country. If you get caught taking a ten rupee bribe, they put a striped cap on your head and send you to prison. But if you get caught taking a million rupee bribe, they put a Gandhi cap on your head and send you to Parliament! Democraticaly elected people's representative!"

Politics was the most favorite topic for Antu sheth and his buddies to express their unique opinions on. They had profound thoughts on every politician and party. One year, there was a famine in Konkan. Konkan is always facing a famine as it is. But this particular one was so bad that in Antu sheth's words it had "been approved under the Famine Act".

Nehru was touring the famine-hit parts of Konkan. He visited Ratnagiri for a speech and the whole town was caught up in Nehru-mania. One evening, someone asked Antu sheth,

"Antu sheth, I didn't see you at the speech?"

"Whose speech? Nehru's? Hmpf!" Antu sheth's disdain was obvious. "What nonsense. There's a famine here. Stop giving speeches. Give us food! This is like seeing a man drowning and instead of saving him, reading from the Quran to ensure that he doesn't end up in hell. Utterly useless. But everyone else is stupid. Oh, Nehru is here? He is giving a speech? He gives great speeches! Let's go! Bloody lemmings!"

"And now that Nehru is in Ratnagiri, what did they do? Idiots took him to show the house, room, and bed where Lokmanya Tilak was born! Morons. Tell me, did god appear in Gangadhar Tilak's dreams and tell him that your wife is going to give birth to a great leader? How would anyone even remember what bed Tilak was born on? But who cares? They just showed Nehru some random room and bed and bluffed - this is where Tilak first went WAAAAAAAAAA."

"Morons! Where's the proof? Where's the proof? Did they get the midwife from Tilak's birth to certify the bed? Hmpf! Forget Tilak. It's been a 100 years since he was born. You tell me. Can your own mother confidently identify the room and the bed where she gave birth to you? Go ask her and then tell me about Nehru and Tilak."

And so ended the rant.

I always wondered if there was anything or anyone in the world that Antu sheth and his friends had respect for. If they ever had a polite dignified response for anything at all.      

Somebody's son became a Professor. And Antu's response,

"Professor? In a circus?There used to be this Professor Chhatre in circuses performing magic tricks."

Someone opened a new store. And Antu's response,

"Tell him to have a bankruptcy form ready. It'll save time when the inevitable happens."

Who knows what school of philosophy these guys followed. More than half of them survived on money orders from children and relatives. They saved money from that and file lawsuits for the strangest reasons. Every lawsuit is stuck in delayed hearing dates. These guys have a big beautiful sea coast, coconut trees, gardens, everything you could reasonably hope for to be happy. But that apparent prosperity gets punctured by an occasional bout of misfortune and all that remains is an impenetrable shield of gallows humor.

Somehow the topic of Gandhi came up. And Antu sheth got on his soap box.

"Gandhi? What Gandhi? Traveled all over the world, but never came to Ratnagiri! Because he was smart. He knew that here, no one gives a damn about his loincloth or his walking stick. We are all just as naked and just as skinny. And his obsession with spinning khadi. It's all useless. Our own Shambhu sheth. All his life, he followed Gandhi's teachings and spun khadi for his clothes. Forget the British government, even Ratnagiri's Collector Gilligan didn't fear his "civil disobedience". And you're talking about Gandhi."

"Then there are all his hunger strikes and fasts. Half of Konkan is hungry and fasting, and not by choice. Someone who is well-fed will find something remarkable about hunger strikes. What do we care? Don't get me wrong. I am not saying Gandhi wasn't a great man. He was. But in our books, under what column should we make an entry for his greatness? And if you are talking about independence, then that had nothing to do with Gandhi, or Tilak or Savarkar."

"So did independence just fall out of the sky?" I asked him.

"It's up to you to find out where it fell out of." Antu replied. "One thing I am sure of is that the Brits left because they got bored. What more was left for them to loot? Their Raj business started making a loss, so they effectively declared bankruptcy and went home. The potter left with his pottery, and we sit here cradling his leftover broken pieces. This is all just a cycle of life and bigger than anything we can comprehend. It's not British rule, nor is it Nehru's rule, nor people's rule, nor anyone's rule. It's the creator's rule."  

"So how did your creator end up siding with the British?" I asked.

"Don't be silly. The creator is sitting pretty on his throne. He just played a small game."

"A game that translated into 150 years of slavery?"

"It's 150 years for you and me." Antu sheth was steadfast. "The almighty's wrist watch doesn't move forward by even one second unless a thousand years go by for us. In his eyes and on his scale, all this is just a minor game that lasted barely a millisecond."

When these emaciated old men started spouting this philosophy on the front yards of that impoverished middle lane in Ratnagiri, with dark shadows formed by the dim light of their age-worn oil lamps dancing on their wrinkled faces, my heart couldn't help but shudder.

"Socialism? What socialism? All nonsense, I tell you. Not even two mango leaves are alike. And these guys want to pretend all men are equal. In the creator's eyes, each individual is unique. How are they going to have equal opportunities or equal outcomes? But everyone is just blabbering....socialism is coming. Just like that Ratnagiri's legislator is saying...Konkan Railway is coming, Konkan Railway is coming. Sure, Konkan Railway is coming. And it's tracks are going through where one-armed Pandu Gurav's toilet used to be. Even if it does, is it going to make Pandu's shoulder stump sprout an arm? What difference will it make?"

"And without an arm to plow his field or pick his crops, no matter what you do with that damn railway, what good is it going to do him? He is still the same. Just because India became independent, does not mean that Hari Sathe's lazy eye got fixed. Nor did Mahadev Godbole's paunch disappear.  Nothing really changed. Even in the fabled Ram Rajya, Ram didn't uproot Hanuman's tail and attach it to his own ass. No. Ram stayed a man, and Hanuman stayed a monkey."

At such times, it almost seem like the Goddess of Wisdom Saraswati is sitting on Antu sheth's tongue.

"You're right." I said.

"Don't just say I am right for the heck of it to be polite. If I am wrong, say that and correct me. You might be younger than me when it comes to age, but when it comes to education, you are my elder, jawaibapu!"

Once in a while, Antu sheth will say something genuinely from his heart, without any sarcasm. But there is always some burning issue close to his heart underlying what he says.

The last few years, I could not go to Ratnagiri as often as I used to. In the meanwhile, Ratnagiri finally got electricity, its own college, tar roads, and all other features of 20th century life. When I met him after that, I said,

"Antu sheth, your Ratnagiri has now become posh! Electric lights and everything. Did your house get an electric connection?"

"No, not yet. But it's good that it's dark. Tomorrow even if I do get electricity, what is there to look at in that bright light? A penniless life? Who needs electricity to look at chipped walls and leaking shingles? It's better that my poverty stays hidden in darkness."

And then he laughed loudly for a full minute like it was a joke.

This time I saw that his teeth had gone almost completely Annu Gogte. I also learned that a couple of more friends of his had passed on and that the card game court was emptier than ever. For a change, I spotted a sense of love, longing, and kindness in the way Antu sheth spoke. I guess the empty seats at his card games were starting to make a place in his heart.

"Joglekar's son got a big promotion and moved to Delhi!" Antu sheth voluntarily shared some pleasant news without his customary sarcastic rejoinder. "Took his old man to Kashi, Haridwar, Vishweshwar, Hrishikesh and all. Fed a 100 brahmins there. Old man Joglekar was thoughtful enough to get me a small sealed pot with water from the Ganga. When you come visit next time, jawaibapu, you'll probably see that the seal has been broken and the water was poured down my throat if you know what I mean."

The next time I visited Ratnagiri, fortunately Antu sheth's Ganga water pot was still sealed.

"Wow, jawaibapu, wow! Congratulations! I heard you're going to England! Congratulations! Have a great trip. Just one "request" for you. Now I have to speak with you in English. So a "request"."

"What request?"

"Go see the Kohinoor diamond once. For some reason, it's an obsession I have always had, the Kohinoor diamond. I can't go see it, but you do it on my behalf. And then come back and tell me how it looks. See all the sights in London and Paris and everything!"

For some reason, I was overcome with a desire to touch his feet, something I had never done before. Right there on the street, I bent down and touched his feet.

"Live a long life!" Antu sheth touched my head gently. "You are a good person, which is why you are so successful."

I said goodbye and started to leave. I had barely gone four steps when I suddenly heard the familiar

"Jawaibapu!!!"

"Yes, Antu sheth?" I turned around.
  
"Forgot to ask you one thing. Are you going alone or with your wife?"

"Both of us are going."

"That's good. Don't mind me, I just had a nagging doubt, so I asked. You are going far away to learn something new. So I was reminded of Devayani's tale from mythology. Hahaha. Convey my blessings to your wife too. I am telling you, your good fortune is all because of her. That's all life is eventually about - the right woman."

Antu sheth paused and continued.

"Let me tell you something. Just between us. My wife passed away 40 years ago. Since then, the alphonso mango tree near my door has stopped flowering. When she was around, the tree yielded hundreds of mangoes every year. But since she left.....you know....fate can take really strange turns. Sorry, I am rambling. Anyway, safe travels. So when are you leaving from Ratnagiri?"

"Tomorrow morning by bus."

"Direct Ratnagiri to Mumbai?"

"Yes."

"Good call. Once someone completes that journey, then even traveling around the world seems easy in comparison. The other day Tatya Jog made the trip. He is still trying to locate all his bones.  Told me some 7-8 bones are missing!"

And he started laughing hard with his mouth wide open. I noticed that there was only one tooth remaining that hadn't gone Annu Gogte.

The next morning at 5 AM at the bus stand, I again heard the familiar cry,

"JAWAIBAPU!"

Antu sheth approached me and gave me a small paper pouch.

"I know you don't believe in god, jawaibapu, but do me a favor and keep this in your pocket. It is holy ash. It will keep you safe. You are going to London by air, so this small pouch shouldn't add too much weight to your luggage."

I put the pouch in my pocket. As the bus got going, I saw Antu sheth lift his shirt and gently wipe tears from his small blinking gray eyes. In that dim dawn light, seeing his bony chest and his concave stomach which had all but touched his back suddenly tugged at my heart.

Just like Konkan's jackfruit, it's people taste sweet only when they ripen for a long time.

xxxxxxxxxxx

          Translating a Raj Thackeray Speech   
I don't agree with Raj Thackeray's stance against immigrants from UP and Bihar. I can sort of, kind of, see where he is coming from, but I don't agree with the conclusion. And I find his forcible and occasionally violent methods to have his way (especially against powerless shopkeepers and job applicants) abhorrent.

However, as a Marathi person, I find the gap between what he says in Marathi and what is reported in the national media to be suspiciously wide. There are two problems. First, they wrongly translate a lot of what he says. Second, they seem to pick and choose the most provocative bits that can be spun into an attention-grabbing soundbite. I have written about the dangers of this phenomenon before.

Today Raj Thackeray led a rally to Azad Maidan (without permission from the police top brass) as a protest against the August 11 incident. He gave a speech there. Again, I marveled at the difference between what he was saying and what the national media was reporting he was saying.

So I had an idea. I have translated PuLa Deshpande's work before. Surely I can translate a speech. So here it is, the speech in Marathi, and then, what I think is an objective, unbiased, and direct translation in English. This is not an endorsement of what he said. Just a translation for illustrative purposes. I agree with some parts, and disagree with some. I'll leave you to judge it for yourself.

Note - I am translating it in a bit of a hurry. So please forgive any typos or inadvertent grammatical errors.



When it's an institution from Maharashtra, be it a police department, a media company, or anything else.... even just a person from Maharashtra....we should demonstrate the strength to ensure that no one ever looks askance at them again with the intention of harming them.

For the last two days, this has been going on... police officials come to me and ask, how will you take the rally from Girgaum chaupatty? I told them we'll walk.

(crowd laughs)

Then they're like, you can't go from here, you can't go from there...all these efforts at putting obstacles in our way have been spearheaded by Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik. I found out the other day..... in fact a few police officials told me this...that they'll try to stop our cars, and try other things to stop us. I called the Chief Minister right away, and asked him, what is this? What happens or doesn't happen (at the rally) is something we can deal with later. But can't we express our protest in a democratic way with a rally?

Why stop us at every point? I assured them at our rally will be a peaceful one, and they still refused us permission for it? And they had no problems giving permission for that Raza Academy rally? But here we are, with a rally to protest what happened the other day right here, and they refuse us permission?

Then there's (Home Minister) R.R. Patil who says - we won't spare anyone who threatens the law and order of the city. Really? So what happened that day? Was his tail between his legs?

(crowd laughs)

The other day he calls up (MNS MLA from Mumbai) Bala Nandgaonkar and says, "What could I do? What was I supposed to do? Was I supposed to take a big stick and stand there?"

(crowd laughs)

There is this one boundary line....one border....one line that cannot be crossed. I have never crossed that line, and will never cross that line. Never raise your hands against the police.

(crowd applauds and cheers)

If you demoralize the police to such an extent, then where will the common man go with his problems? Where will he go? If this keeps happening, tomorrow even the police will say "we don't want to get involved here, do whatever you want".

Is this how a state is run? And this Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik. The cops caught the guilty people. And what does he say to the DCP who arrested the guilty people? He says, "You bastard, let them go!" He tells him to let the criminals go!

Our policewomen sisters were tormented here... they were pulled aside and beaten up and molested......all these guys, our Marathi police constables, were getting beaten up... and they weren't getting any orders?

Oh, and these (police head honchos) knew everything from the beginning. They knew that there were trains full of these goons coming for the rally. And they had choppers, and rods and everything else... tell me, are there ever any rocks lying around here (in Azad Maidan)? Where did the rocks come from?

These people had advance warning of all these facts, and they still ignored them. And they refuse permission for my peaceful rally? The other day, when some police officials came to meet me, I told them. I told them that the 11th August rally at least had targets. That mob knew that it was supposed to target the police and the media.

Who do we want to target (in this rally)? I have already declared our targets. Arup Patnaik, resign! R.R. Patil, resign! I declared this in the beginning itself.

We have not come here to destroy cars or set something on fire. We don't even wish to do all that. Even if we were to, whose cars would we destroy and whose property would we set on fire? Our own? Those belonging to our citizens from Mumbai and Maharashtra? This rally isn't for such purposes.

But how else are we supposed to express our anger? They won't let us express our anger at whatever happened. And they say, please respect democracy. This is democracy?

Go and look at the track record of Raza Academy and its rallies. A few years ago, this same Raza Academy had a rally in Bhiwandi. This bhadva (translates to 'pimp' but pimp doesn't have the same punch :)) Abu Asim Azmi went to that rally. He gave a speech there, that too an inflammatory speech. And they're sending me notices - "don't make inflammatory speeches". That Abu Azmi went there, made an inflammatory speech in Bhiwandi. You know what happened next?

The mob killed two police constables by bashing their heads in with big rocks. Then they cut off their private parts and threw their corpses into burning buses..... the government had no problems with that. And they refuse me permission for a rally?

Whoever came here (on 11t August) had no connection with Maharashtra. They all came from outside Maharashtra.

(crowd applauds and cheers)

After everything that went down here that day, this passport was found, a Bangladeshi passport...

(shows a Bangladeshi passport to the crowd)

This was found right here. Single entry passport (I assume he meant visa). Needed only to come into India. No intentions of going back, so it was thrown away here...

(throws it away)

There are countless such people coming into Maharashtra... they are all setting up their bases in Maharashtra. Tell me something....they say 'coincidence'....what coincidence?

In 1992 when the Babri Masjid was demolished, where was its retaliation felt instantly? In Mumbai! There was no violence anywhere else in the country (GS: this isn't true...there were riots in many other cities)...only in Mumbai! And when this incident happened during the rally on 11th August, its reaction happened in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. So something happens in Uttar Pradesh, there's a reaction in Mumbai, and something happens in Mumbai, there's a reaction in Uttar Pradesh. Doesn't India have any other states???

The reason is, all these people are coming here from there. All these Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who have infiltrated and set up bases in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and Jharkhand, they're all coming here by the trainfuls. And the bases that they are setting up here in Mumbai, those are going to create trouble for us in the future.

Otherwise tell me, this Abu Azmi is elected from two different constituencies in Maharashtra. Two different constituencies? Should any politician from Maharashtra get elected from two different constituencies? He gets elected from two constituencies because all the people in those two constituencies have all come from outside, and they vote for him.

That day, it finally came to the police (couldn't understand the word he said here despite re-playing it many times, at 12:20)...then they had to do it. While doing that, the guy who died, Abu Azmi announced 1.5 lakh rupees for him. So why not for our policemen?

(crowd applauds and cheers)

Even the state government hasn't announced anything yet. No announcements from the state government that they are going to provide compensation for those who were hurt or troubled in those events. Nothing. Nope, just get beaten up.

Why didn't R.R. Patil speak up then? He threatens us.... anyway, what's the point in threatening us? It's almost time for us (and him...a pun) to leave now.

(crowd laughs)

They don't think about anything that has already happened or what may happen. They don't do anything useful. Just get the cops beaten up. Anyone will come, drag our cops away, and beat them up?

The other day when they had that rally in Uttar Pradesh, rioted, destroyed property and all. The ones who did that were also all from outside - Pakistani Muslims and Bangladeshi Muslims. They all poured out into the streets. And what did they do? They defaced a statue of Gautam Buddha. Everyone saw it. Everyone saw pictures, saw it on TV.

Where is Mayawati? Where is that Ramdas Athavale? Where is R.S. Gavai? Where is Prakash Ambedkar? Why are they all silent? All they're obsessed with, as if possessed by a ghost, is Indu Mills Indu Mills Indu Mills Indu Mills. Don't they have anything else to do? What do they want to build in Indu Mills - a bungalow?

Why aren't they talking now? But no one will talk about these things now. They're not ready to utter a word. It's been so many days since the (11th August) incident. But there has been no statement about it from Ramdas Athavale. No statements from R.S. Gavai or Prakash Ambedkar or Mayawati, or anyone else. Nothing. Cat's got everyone's tongues.

This Mumbai Police Comissioner.....he has a "favorite" (that's the word he used) officer Dhoble. The other day, he takes a hockey stick and goes to that...what was that..juice center bar... juice center something...where did he go?

(crowd prompts)

Yes, Amar Juice Center. Is that a place to take a hockey stick to? Take your wife, your kids, I can understand, but a hockey stick? He takes a hockey stick there and beats up innocent people with that hockey stick? And what's his defense? He found drugs there....then why didn't he shut it down?

And this idiot...Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik....what's his explanation? He says Dhoble was on his way to play hockey and stopped over at the juice center. Tomorrow, if someone has gone for his honeymoon. So will he just turn up there naked?

(crowd laughs and cheers)

So Patnaik will go out of his way to protect Dhoble! Because Dhoble is his "favorite". And here (in Azad Maidan) when cops were waiting for orders to tackle the mob.....if not firing, at least give us orders for a lathi charge.... at that time Patnaik had nothing to say. And when our police officers were catching the guilty culprits, Patnaik abuses the officers, calling them "bastards"? He is demoralizing cops to such an extent?

This won't be allowed to happen in Maharashtra anymore. I only want to say one thing to R.R. Patil and Arup Patnaik. Even if you have a little bit of shame left...even a minuscule amount of shame left.... then resign. If you have even the slightest bit of shame left.

For the last two days, some newspapers have been saying - "Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is now moving towards Hindutva". Whoever raises his hands against a cop, whatever his religion, he should be bashed up wherever he is.

When my own party's MLA was bashed up....Harshavaradhan Jadhav.....is he here?  When Harshavardhan was bashed up.... I gave the orders for him to be bashed up... would he have been bashed up otherwise? When I gave a speech at that time, I said the same thing. Harshavaradhan, no matter what happens, you DO NOT raise your hands against a policeman. Never raise your hands against a cop.

This has nothing to do with religion. All the constables who were here, all my policewomen sisters...the female cops... I consider them all my Marathi brothers and Marathi sisters. I have come out on the streets here for them.

The rally that day (11th August) was organized by Muslims and today I have organized a protest rally against it.... so immediately they're jumping to the conclusion that I am "moving towards Hindutva"? I only understand...this Raj Thackeray only understands one religion...and that is Maharashtra religion. I don't understand any religion except that one. No one dare cross this Maharashtra religion. No one dare think of harming it.

And today's rally is only to boost the morale of the police and to provide wholehearted support to the police.  Along with them, we have people from the media here. Media vans were attacked, burnt, photographers were beaten up.... this rally is to express support for all of them too.

I thank you all for the tremendous response to this rally. If ever such events reoccur, we must stand together in strength like this.

When you're going back...all of you, when you're going back...keep in mind and make absolutely sure that you don't indulge in any sort of untoward activities. Go back in an orderly and peaceful manner to wherever you came from.

I hope that in the future whenever I call upon you, you will return with the same enthusiasm. And now I take your leave.

Jai Hind! Jai Maharashtra!

--------- 

          This is Congo's top environmental defender: Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo   
He puts his life on the line to protect the Democratic Republic of Congo's national parks.
          On Ad Hominem and Relative Morality   
A few hours back, @riffraaf whom I follow on twitter and have great regard for, and I had a disagreement over the aftermath of the Rosen-Romney episode. We exchanged a couple of emails. She wrote this post.

This is my response

Very well put. I agree mostly.

Here's where I am coming from: Rosen made a stupid comment. Faux outrage about how Ann Romney is such a victim ensued. (never mind our FLOTUS is bashed in ugly ways every day but that's probably the partisan in me talking, you might say).


Oh, Michelle is definitely bashed in the ugliest ways. It is bizarre to me that someone can make combating obesity into some evil plot!

Some of the people I follow on the right started labeling it as #waronmoms. This was a completely cynical response to left's #waronwomen. Now they wanted to beat the left at their own game. I get it.


Yup, they're just being cynical. But being helped by the left propagating articles like the rude pundit's.

But there was more to #waronwomen (though I personally loathe to use this slogan): Most women I know who are not into partisanship in general (because they're too busy raising kids and handling jobs unlike me :) ) got really riled up with a series of events that hurt women's rights: starting from planned parenthood defunding by Komen to birth control access issues to Sandra fluke (and Rush Limbaugh harassing Fluke for 3 entire days calling her a slut, prostitute, how she should put her porn videos online so he can watch it and so on) to ultra sound bills to new arizona laws infringing rights further.


Agree. That's how my wife (Indian-born American-raised) wife is. She is not as much into politics. She does follow it more than others. She is, like me, a fiscal conservative. But for her, this #waronwomen trumps anything else. Anything related to planned parenthood (which she loves) and birth control gets her riled up. So even if Obama raises taxes by gazillion percent (she hates tax raises even on rich folks), the social aspect of it against women's rights will always make her vote democrat.

So it irritates me to no end that suddenly Risen is somehow equivalent of Limbaugh and all the incivilities shown against women in the last year are equivalent to one insensitive remark made by a Rosen who was a nobody until now (even w/ her hillary support in 2008 and apparently having contributed to Obama campaign in 2008).


I don't think Rosen is equivalent of the much much viler and nastier and just plain-worse-human-being Limbaugh. I am not drawing the equivalence, so I am not going to defend the equivalence.

However, on its own, what Rosen said is definitely insensitive and stupid. And undoubtedly ad hominem. That's all that matters to me, as someone who doesn't count himself on the left or the right when it comes to identifying with movements. By saying what she did, Rosen attacked who Ann Romney, not what Ann or Mitt Romney were saying, making it a classic ad hominem attack.

It's politically damaging I agree. But it's a huge fake outrage and no where near what's really happening to women all over the country (whether w/ healthcare, minimum wages, equal pay, infringing on woman's body, unemployment and so on that affect women in REAL ways).

So I know Obama was doing what any Dem politician would do, but I'm still turned off by this whole latest, what I call Faux outrage.


Granted that some of those outraging are just fake-outraging. Just taking the chance to score points against their political opponents. Granted that many of those outraging on the right have possibly said much worse and more misogynist stuff against women.

But what Rosen said was still stupid and insensitive. And IMO, the Obama campaign by denouncing what Rosen said, is doing not just the politically expedient thing, but the right thing. And elements of the left by digging in and writing posts/articles undermining the worth of Ann Romney's life, are doing the WRONG thing, be it politically or morally.
          TS214: Uber,C-sections,CNN,Carol   
Have you seen Eyes Wide Shut? Bryan's Uber driver has! He's also pretty grossed out with CNN's disgusting anti-Muslim coverage as well as with the few gay Democratic congresspeople who voted for a bill that require refugees to have stricter, unrealistic background checks. And Erin looks at the overuse of C-sections by doctors. Who did you like better in Carol - Cate Blanchett or Rosie O'Hara?
          House Panel Advances Air Traffic Control Privatization Plan   
The Trump administration’s plan to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system moved forward in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Tuesday, despite concerted opposition from Democratic members of Congress.
          A new uranyl phosphate sheet in the crystal structure of furongite (no replies)   
Reference:
▪ Dal Bo, F., Hatert, F., Philippo, S. (2017): A new uranyl phosphate sheet in the crystal structure of furongite. European Journal of Mineralogy, 29, 517-527.

Abstract:
The crystal structure of furongite, Al4[(UO2)4(PO4)6](OH)2(H2O)19.5, from the Kobokobo pegmatite, Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, was solved for the first time. Furongite is triclinic, the space group P-1;, Z=2, a = 12.1685(8), b = 14.1579(6), c = 17.7884(6) , α = 79.822(3), β = 77.637(4), γ = 67.293(2)°, and V = 2746.2(2)3. The crystal structure was refined from single-crystal X-ray diffraction data to R1 = 0.0733 for 7716 unique observed reflections, and to wR2 = 0.2081 for all 12,538 unique reflections. The structure of furongite contains infinite uranyl phosphate sheets of composition [(UO2)4(PO4)6]10- which are parallel to (1 0 1). The sheets are constituted by UrO5 pentagonal bipyramids and PO4 tetrahedra which share edges and vertices, and adjacent sheets are linked by a dense network of hydrogen bonds. Running through the sheets and connected mainly to the free apical oxygen atom of PO4 tetrahedra are Al octahedra connected together to form remarkable Al2O5(OH)(H2O)5 and Al4O8(OH)2(H2O)10 clusters. These Al clusters are only bonded to one sheet, and do not connect two adjacent sheets together. The topology of the uranyl phosphate sheets is related to the uranophane anion topology, and can be described as a new geometrical isomer of the uranophane group. Furongite is the first uranyl phosphate reported in nature with a U:P ratio of 2:3.
          TS45:DNC, Chris Kluwe, Brendon Ayanbadejo, British GQ   
Erin is back from the Democratic National Convention with stories of cookies and speeches and lots more to talk about with Bryan... like footballers for equality and how gangster Nancy Sinatra, Lana Del Rey, forgot her clothes for her photo shoot for British GQ. I'm coming out so you better get this party started.  Participate in #Share-tember (#Cher-tember) - spread the word about Throwing Shade and post photos of new recruits on our Facebook page in exchange for a photo of Bryan and Erin autographed with a terrible piece of advice. Subscribe and Rate on iTunes @gibblertron & @bryansafi #tspod bryanyerin@gmail.com Official Max Fun Page Facebook page RSS Feed
          Voting Fights in the States   
AP Photo/Andrew Selsky

Oregon Governor Kate Brown, at podium, celebrates Oregon's first year of an automatic voter registration program with a news conference, where she said that in the November election, over 97,000 ballots were cast by new voters registered by the so-called motor voter program. Hazelnuts contained in the bags in the foreground represent the 270,000 Oregonians who were registered to vote by the program. 

The national battle over voting rights and “voter fraud” will play out in Washington over the next months in relation to the Kobach-Pence commission and the resistance to it. But in the meantime, issues have been joined this spring in state legislative sessions around the country. And the resulting scorecard may surprise you.

Back in November, when the dust settled after the election, the numbers on partisan control of legislatures seemed stark and frightening for advocates of voting rights and election reform. Republicans controlled both chambers in 31 states, and had the full “trifecta,” including the governor, in 24. In sharp contrast, Democrats controlled both houses in only 13 states, and had trifectas in a mere six. Looking at these numbers, at the post-Shelby decision absence of Voting Rights Act preclearance protections, and at the radically changed posture of the Justice Department, many feared an onslaught of voter-suppression legislation that would create an even more diminished electorate for the elections of 2018.

Well, it’s now the end of June, and while some legislatures are still in session, the great majority have finished their business for the year. Several states have indeed passed bad bills. But, overall, the results are significantly better, both in staving off voter-suppression efforts and in expanding voting rights and voting access, than one might have expected as the sessions began.

First, A Few Real Successes

Perhaps the most remarkable outcome this year is in Illinois, which has a Democratic legislature and a conservative Republican governor, Bruce Rauner. Last year, the legislature passed an automatic voter registration (AVR) bill with bipartisan support, but Rauner vetoed it. 

Under automatic voter registration, people who go to the DMV, and potentially other agencies as well, are automatically put on the voter roll, unless they opt out. In Oregon, which was the first adopter, AVR has added several hundred thousand voters to the rolls.

In Illinois, an AVR bill was reintroduced this year and, remarkably, passed both chambers with unanimous votes. While Rauner has 60 days to sign the bill, all indications are that he will, joining Illinois with eight other states and the District of Columbia where AVR is being implemented, and showing that maybe, at least in Illinois, encouraging people to register and vote doesn’t seem like a partisan trick.

The victory was also the work of a broad and determined coalition of voting-rights and election-reform advocacy groups, under the rubric of Just Democracy. Brian Gladstein, Executive Director of Common Cause Illinois and one of the leaders of the coalition said:

This bill will bring over one million eligible voters into the electoral process in Illinois. During a time of heightened partisanship in Springfield and across the nation, we have demonstrated that breaking down barriers to the ballot box can be achieved and supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

AVR still has a good chance to pass in other states. In Rhode Island, an AVR bill passed the House unanimously and a positive vote in the Senate is expected shortly. Governor Gina Raimondo has said she will sign it if it comes to her desk. In Massachusetts, where the legislative session goes on all year, an AVR bill with 102 legislative sponsors has been heard in committee (23 speakers in favor and none against), and could be before the full legislature in the fall.

In some other states, AVR made headway but was eventually blocked. These include Maine, New Mexico, and Nevada. In Nevada’s case, the bill passed both houses, but was vetoed by Republican Governor Brian Sandoval. A ballot initiative on AVR now goes to the voters, who will have the chance to approve it in the November 2018 general election.

In addition to automatic voter registration, other real gains were made. Utah expanded opportunities for early voting and absentee voting. New Jersey improved its processes for military voters and Indiana improved its registration process at the motor vehicle department.

Another issue where progress was made, though halting and slow, is restoration of the right to vote for citizens with felony convictions. Forty-nine bills were introduced in 16 states to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people who have served their sentences. A real victory occurred in Wyoming, which enacted a bill providing that people who completed their sentence after January 1, 2010, do not need to submit an application for restoration of voting rights and will automatically be issued a certificate of restoration.

In Florida, where 1.7 million citizens can’t vote due to the state’s lifetime ban on voting by people with felony convictions (1.5 million have fully completed their sentences), the broad and bipartisan Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has made major strides. The Florida Supreme Court has approved language for a proposed ballot initiative to restore voting rights to ex-felons; now the job is collecting 700,000 signatures on the petition in order to be on the ballot in November 2018.

In Minnesota, the Restore the Vote Coalition got a bill to more effectively restore voting rights through one house of the legislature. And in Nebraska, the state’s conservative unicameral legislature passed a bill to restore voting rights to citizens upon release from incarceration by a 27-13 margin, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Pete Ricketts. (Nebraska voting-rights advocates also derailed a proposed constitutional amendment requiring voter ID.)

Now for the Bad News

To be clear, and clear-eyed, the move to make voting more difficult and restricted continues, and several states enacted laws designed to limit the vote in one way or another. The forces bent on restricting the vote have won significant victories over the last several years, though many of the laws have been successfully challenged in court. In fact, of the worst voter-restriction bills that passed this year, a majority were actually efforts to re-pass laws struck down in court, altered in order to make them more judicially acceptable.

·      Iowa enacted a law, championed by Secretary of State Paul Pate, which includes restrictions on voter-registration drives; hindrances to Election Day, early, and absentee voting; strict voter-ID requirements; and—most troublesome—the right to purge voter rolls of “non-citizen” names without any clarity on who and how such decisions to purge are made. This could lead to significant numbers of eligible voters being disenfranchised.

·      New Hampshire passed a bill restricting registration for students and low-income voters by requiring proof of residency for those who register 30 days before the election, with investigation and criminal penalties for failure to comply. (A component to eliminate same-day registration was dropped from the bill.)

·      In Arkansas, a voter-ID law, modified after courts struck down an earlier, similar law, was passed and signed. The law reinstates the requirement that a voter must provide one of a narrow choice of IDs at the polls. In addition, the legislature put a constitutional amendment requiring voter ID on the 2018 ballot.

·      In North Dakota, the only state that doesn’t require voter registration at all, the governor signed strict voter-ID requirements into law. The bill was softened somewhat, particularly in regard to the Native American community, to avoid the fate of the 2016 version of the law, which was struck down in court.

Why Less Carnage?

No one wants to be naïvely optimistic, or to underestimate how much damage has already been done in states by determined efforts at voter suppression. Racially charged and politically motivated efforts continue at every level to find ways to discourage people from registering and voting. In the wake of Shelby, these efforts have multiplied and will continue to do so.

But, overall, the results in the 2017 legislative sessions were not nearly as bad as seemed likely last November. There was not a deluge of major voter-suppression legislation. Some bad bills were passed, a number were weakened as they made their way through the legislative process, and a significant number were sidetracked along the way. Two main reasons for this seem clear.

First, the courts, both state and federal, have played a significant role in preventing extreme assaults on voting. Prodded by strong litigation efforts from voting-rights organizations, in state after state, courts have found voter-suppression efforts unconstitutional, blocking their implementation. In addition to the direct effects of the cases, their cumulative impact has been to caution and restrain advocates of restrictive legislation from overreaching.

Second, it is deeply encouraging to see the growing power, sophistication, and rapid response capabilities of the movement for an inclusive democracy. In state after state, coalitions were activated, or created, to fight back against the efforts to stifle, shrink, and bleach the vote. 

And the advocates didn’t just play defense. Despite the potentially unfavorable partisan makeup in so many states, the affirmative action for expanding the right and ability to vote continues to make headway—winning in some states, gathering momentum for future victories in others. 

And there is one other cause for optimism worth noting. I recently attended a conference of 200 legislators and election officials from around the country, co-convened by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Democracy Fund. The focus of the event was election technology and administration. There was strong and bipartisan support for improving election machinery, combating the challenges of cybersecurity, and fighting for adequate funding to run elections in the best way possible. This is one of the reasons that online registration and automatic voter registration are making real progress; they are technical improvements as well as access expansions. The election officials take their responsibilities seriously, and if legislators, state and national, would take their cues, bipartisan progress just might become more possible.

Thanks to Cecily Hines for research and perspective for this column.


          Study highlights Democrats’ campaign hurdles in 2018   
The Buzz is the Register’s weekly political news column. Ardent opposition to President Donald Trump is motivating veteran and first-time activists in Orange County’s four Republican congressional districts, but unseating the incumbents remains an uphill road. Three of those GOP members won reelection by more than 10 percentage points last year. And while polls show […]
          Do we need an election fraud panel?   
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday forming a commission on voter fraud and elections, an action many Democrats say is aimed at justifying his unfounded voter fraud claims.  (“Millions cast illegal ballots, giving Hillary Clinton her huge popular … Continue reading
          Nadia Urbinati y Bernard Manin sobre la democracia representativa y su crisis   
Extenso reportaje a ambos, por Helene Landemore
Versión en francés, http://www.laviedesidees.fr/La-democratie-representative-est.html
Versión en inglés, http://www.booksandideas.net/Is-representative-democracy-really-democratic.html

          Beyond Inauthentic Opposition   
The really critical thing,” the great American radical historian Howard Zinn once sagely wrote, “isn't who's sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in—in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating—those are the things that determine what happens." However you vote (and I honestly don’t know that my head could ever make my right hand mark a ballot for a Democrat again), the act takes two minutes once every two or four years. What do you do with the rest of your political life? More
          What the Democratic Party Should Know   
It has turned out that the Democratic Party is the party that would fall apart after Trump’s election, although, like the odds on the election itself, most pundits pictured the Republican Party destroyed by Trump’s election. It was always in the cards that a mogul president, regardless of how quirky, would meld with Republicans intent More
          A Fourth of July Like You’ve Never Seen It Before   
This year, sit back with your favorite beverage or herb, prop up your feet and open your head to consider Independence Day in a whole new way. A historically critical article about the American Revolution would typically discuss how the democratic promises of the Declaration were left hanging at war’s end, followed by a decidedly More
          The Disputed Election to Head California’s Democratic Party   
Karen Bernal is a movement activist, having worked in labor, progressive Democratic Party politics and social justice issues. She is the newly elected chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party, having returned to that post after a four-year hiatus. She was also co-chair of California’s Bernie Sanders delegates to the 2016 Democratic More
          Common Cause, Democrats urge Maryland not to comply with Trump election data request   

A government watchdog group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland urged state election officials on Friday to refuse to comply with a data request made by the Trump administration as part of an investigation into the integrity of elections.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election...


          Trump to meet Putin at G20 summit, White House says   
US intelligence agencies agree Russia was behind last year’s hack of Democratic email systems and tried to influence the 2016 election.
          Dems To Challenge McLean Co Clerk   
Democrats plan to mount a challenge next year to Republican McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael. Nikita Richards has announced she is running as a progressive. Richards said Michael was not pro-active in heading off long voter waiting lines in the 2016 election cycle.
          Confidence in Institutions Poll   
We look at this poll every year, more or less. This year's results are unexpected: American confidence in institutions is up, at a level not seen since Obama first took office.

More, this poll defies the trendline I've been worried about over previous years. The decline in faith in institutions has chiefly affected the non-coercive institutions: the consistently highly placed winners were the police, the military, and the criminal justice system. Congress, newspapers, churches -- all the non-coercive branches fared worse and worse. This year, that reversed to some degree.

There's a big partisan split in a couple of places, especially faith in the Presidency (swings near fifty points for both parties) and newspapers (way up among Democrats, down somewhat among Republicans). SCOTUS shows a zero shift among Democrats, but a big gain among Republicans -- no doubt the outcome of the Gorsuch fight.

But that doesn't hold everywhere. Many institutions show compatible shifts, including things like organized labor (Republicans up by two, Democrats by a little more), church (1/3), and public schools (9/5). At least some of the ways in which we deal with each other nonviolently are tracking up a bit, and that's kind of surprising given the political climate.
          Fox & Friends ignores WSJ report suggesting possible Russia collusion   


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

President Donald Trump’s favorite morning news show, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, completely ignored a Wall Street Journal report about a Republican Party operative who sought former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers and who may have been working with then-Trump senior adviser Michael Flynn.

On June 29, the Journal (which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News) reported that before the 2016 presidential election, GOP operative Peter Smith “mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.” Smith “implied that he was working” with Flynn during his “conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him,” according to the report. The FBI has previously said that it could not find definitive proof that Clinton’s server had been hacked.

Media Matters searched SnapStream for “wall,” “street,” and “Flynn” on morning shows of Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN that aired on June 30 and found that Fox & Friends did not mention the story even once. By contrast, CNN’s New Day covered the story in multiple segments, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosted the Journal reporter who broke the story to discuss it.

Fox & Friends has repeatedly dismissed the investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and tried to delegitimize the FBI Russia probe, claiming there's "no evidence" of collusion. Their failure to report the story is yet another effort by the hosts to cover for Trump, who regularly watches and praises the show and has drawn upon it as a source for numerous policy and other ideas.


          Did a GOP politician effectively buy Roger Stone’s endorsement against Sen. Elizabeth Warren?   

Roger Stone posted social media endorsements of Massachusetts state Rep. Geoff Diehl’s bid to challenge Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) just days after Diehl rented his email list.

Stone, who contributes to radio host Alex Jones’ Infowars network and will soon host his own Infowars show, has a history of pushing racist, sexist, and conspiratorial rhetoric. Stone has been a longtime adviser to Trump and worked as a paid consultant for Trump’s campaign; he is now reportedly under FBI investigation as part of the agency’s probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Stone announced in May through a marketing company that he’s accepting advertisers for his “online presence,” which includes his email list and "social media posts."

Diehl’s campaign rented Stone’s list on June 16 for a fundraising email. A message accompanying the email stated: “We are excited to share with you a special message from one of our sponsoring advertisers, Diehl For Senate. It is also sponsors like them that help fund Stone Cold Truth. Please note that the following message reflects the opinions and representations of our sponsor alone, and not necessarily the opinion of Roger Stone.”

Endorsements for Diehl subsequently appeared on Stone's Facebook and Twitter accounts. Those posts gave no indication whether they were advertisements.

Stone’s Facebook page posted the following on June 23: “Help Us Fire Elizabeth Warren!!!!! Geoff Diehl: The REAL Deal for Massachusetts Help build our grassroots movement to support the real Diehl for Massachusetts. Stand with Geoff Diehl for U.S. Senate. Your donation will send a loud message that it's time to put Massachusetts first.” Much of that language is taken from Diehl’s website. Diel’s Facebook page subsequently touted the Stone post by writing: “The Stone Cold Truth is that we need a U.S. Senator who will put Massachusetts first. Donate today!” 

On June 24, Stone tweeted a link to a Diehl fundraising page and asked followers to "help us fire Elizabeth Warren."

Diehl retweeted Stone and a supporter who celebrated Stone's tweet:

Stone’s backing of Diehl is at odds with his colleagues at Infowars, which has thrown its support to entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai, who is competing against Diehl for the Republican nomination. He appeared on Alex Jones’ program on June 7 and June 25. During the June 7 interview, Jones said it was “really exciting” to have Ayyadurai challenging Warren, gave viewers his campaign website address, and asked the Republican how people can support his candidacy. Ayyadurai responded by asking Jones’ listeners to make donations and to volunteer with his campaign.

He appeared on Jones’ June 25 show with guest host Owen Shroyer for roughly 20 minutes; the video description stated: “Everyone show your support for Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai running against Democrat Elitist, Elizabeth Warren in 2018. https://shiva4senate.com/ https://twitter.com/va_shiva.” During the appearance, the candidate said that “what Alex does is probably, sort of the last sort of beacon of truth that’s out there.”

Requests for comment to Diehl were not returned.


          Cuban Authorities Block Seven Activists From Traveling to Mexico for Democracy Action Meeting   
Cuban Authorities Block Seven Activists From Traveling to Mexico for Democracy Action Meeting 14ymedio, Havana, 27 June 2017 – Cuban authorities blocked at least seven activists from traveling to Cancun, Mexico this Monday, to participate in the 4th Forum on Roads to a Democratic Cuba, a meeting of the United Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) organized […]
          Democrat from Las Cruces jumps in race for Congress   
A Democrat from Las Cruces on Thursday announced his campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, although it remains unclear if the seven-term congressman will seek re-election to Congress, run for governor or pursue something else. Although the general election isn’t until November 2018, David Baake said he’s not waiting to get his congressional […]
           Court: Democrat can sue Iowa over alleged GOP reprisals    
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Democratic appointee can seek damages for alleged political retaliation he suffered under...
          Look at possible conflicts of interest in Trump team's OneWest Bank probes, 2 Democrats urge   

Two House Democrats want Congress to look into possible conflicts of interest in the Trump administration’s handling of investigations into Pasadena’s OneWest Bank — a bank formerly headed by now-Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Al Green (D-Texas) said...


          Assembly Democrats denounce threats made after single-payer healthcare bill was sidelined   

          Look at possible conflicts of interest in Trump team's OneWest Bank probes, 2 Democrats urge   

          Democratic lawmakers urge Tillerson to stop Israeli trial   

Thirty-two Democratic members of Congress have urged the secretary of state to help an Arab activist who is going on trial in Israel. In a letter sent Wednesday, the lawmakers asked Rex Tillerson to utilize his influence in the case of Issa Amro, who is facing charges connected to protests he organized in Hevron.


          Trump Urges GOP To Repeal Obama Law Now, Replace Later   

President Donald Trump urged divided congressional Republicans on Friday to break their logjam over dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law by “immediately” repealing it and replacing it later, a formula that GOP leaders dismissed months ago as politically unwise. Trump’s early-morning tweet embraced a sequential approach favored by only a handful of conservatives eager to take quick action on one of the party’s foremost priorities — repealing Obamacare, something Republicans have long promised to do. But his suggestion threatened to sharpen divisions between conservatives and moderates, who are leery of stripping coverage from millions of constituents without something to substitute for it. “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” Trump tweeted. Supporters of that idea include Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Rand Paul, R-Ky. House and Senate leaders long ago abandoned initial thoughts of first erasing Obama’s law, and then replacing it. Such a step-by-step approach would leave Republicans vulnerable to Democratic accusations that they were simply tossing people off coverage without helping them obtain medical care. It could also roil insurance markets by prompting insurers to flee or boost premiums because of worries over whether, when and how Congress would replace the statute. And the idea would leave unresolved the quandary stumping lawmakers today — how to replace Obama’s system of online insurance markets, tax subsidies and an expanded Medicaid with something that will get enough Republican votes to pass Congress. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to comment on Trump’s tweet. Underscoring the fissures within the GOP, conservative group leaders welcomed Trump’s suggestion but said it didn’t go far enough because it could open the door to a subsequent bipartisan compromise to replace Obama’s law. They accused McConnell of not wanting to go far enough and protecting GOP moderates who want to keep parts of the statute, such as insurance coverage requirements. “It’s distressing to see so many Republicans who’ve lied about their commitment to repeal. Mitch McConnell wants to amend Obamacare,” Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said in a conference call. Mimicking a southern accent, the New Jersey-born Cuccinelli said, “Root and branch, root and branch,” repeating an expression McConnell once used about how thoroughly he wanted to repeal the Obama law. On Thursday, Senate Republicans were considering breaking a stalemate over what their replacement bill should do by preserving a tax boost Obama’s law imposed on high earners. Keeping that tax increase in place was a bid to woo party moderates and rescue their sputtering push to repeal his health care overhaul. The break from dogma by a party that has long reviled tax boosts — and most things achieved by Obama — underscores McConnell’s feverish effort to rescue the Senate legislation from the brink of possible defeat. The money from the tax boost would instead be used to bolster proposed health care subsidies for lower-income people. The change, proposed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would give a more populist flavor to the bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that as the legislation now is written, it would boost out-of-pocket costs for many poor consumers and produce 22 million uninsured people while cutting around $700 billion in taxes over a […]

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          Sessions Hopes Russia Probe Ends ‘Sooner Rather Than Later’   

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a vote of confidence Friday to former FBI director Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading an investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, but he also said he hoped the investigation could “move forward and come to an end sooner rather than later.” The attorney general’s comments during a “Fox & Friends” interview were his most expansive to date on the Justice Department’s appointment last month of Mueller to run the investigation. “Mr. Mueller is someone I’ve known a long time, and I’ve had confidence in him over the years,” said Sessions, an Alabama Republican who served for years on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that oversees the FBI. Those remarks stand in contrast to a drumbeat of Republican criticism of the special counsel’s investigation, including from President Donald Trump, who on the same show last week contended that Mueller was “very, very good friends” with fired FBI director James Comey and characterized that relationship as “very bothersome.” Republicans have also raised conflict-of-interest concerns by noting that some lawyers on Mueller’s investigative team have previously contributed to Democratic candidates, though federal law and department policy does not permit the special counsel to take into consideration the political affiliations of a potential hire. Sessions said he was hopeful the investigation would conclude sooner than later, a point White House staff has repeatedly made, and he did suggest that questions about the composition of Mueller’s staff could be fair game. “We expect integrity from every person involved in this investigation. Mr. Mueller is entitled, lawfully, I guess, at this point, to hire who he desires,” Sessions said, “but I think he should look for people who have strength and credibility by all people.” Mueller was appointed FBI director by Republican President George W. Bush and held the position for 12 years. (AP)

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          Need A Ride? Uber, Lyft Running In Upstate NY, Long Island   

The Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services began operating Thursday in upstate New York and on Long Island, a move that officials say will provide work for thousands of drivers and reduce alcohol-related road accidents. The ride-hailing apps became available for those regions as of 12:01 a.m. under legislation approved by state lawmakers and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month. The original measure called for the services to begin upstate and on Long Island on July 9, but Cuomo and the Legislature worked out a deal to push up the start to just before the busy Fourth of July holiday. The two ride-hailing apps had been limited to picking up passengers in New York City until lawmakers voted this year to permit the expansion. The Post-Standard of Syracuse reports that the state Department of Motor Vehicles said more than 20,000 drivers are expected to provide rides for Uber and Lyft. The agency, whose duties include regulating ride-hailing companies, said that’s the number of drivers who filed information with the DMV to become drivers for the two apps. All those drivers are either on Long Island or in upstate New York, DMV officials said. Buffalo, the state’s second-largest city, had been one of the largest cities in the country without access to the ride-hailing apps. On Wednesday, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown joined Erie County District Attorney John Flynn and local law enforcement leaders to praise the arrival of Uber and Lyft. “Anything that we can do to produce more jobs, to produce more employment opportunities and circulate more dollars into our economy, benefits the economic development and the economy of Buffalo and western New York,” Brown said. Police officials said giving people another option to taxis will cut down on the number of drivers who get behind the wheel after drinking. “If ride-sharing can reduce the number of DWI arrests and alcohol-related crashes, then all this effort was worth it,” said Timothy Howard, sheriff for Erie County, which includes the city of Buffalo. (AP)

The post Need A Ride? Uber, Lyft Running In Upstate NY, Long Island appeared first on Yeshiva World News.


          Grenfell bungling and the democratic deficit | Letters   
David Nowell argues for local electoral reform in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, while Leigh Daynes highlights the plight of ex-residents too frightened to get medical help

The extraordinarily inept way in which Kensington and Chelsea council has handled the Grenfell Tower disaster (Public barred as leader of council gives his apology for failings, 30 June) has been exacerbated by first-past-the-post elections and Blairite local government reforms. Before the introduction of streamlined cabinet decision-making, the old committee-based system at least ensured that any opposition councillors’ constructive comments and objections had to be minuted before key decisions were made, and not after the event.

Even if within the Royal Borough more than half still wish to vote Tory next May, at least the introduction of the single transferable vote would ensure much more diversity. Instead of four-and-a-half Labour wards confined to Kensington, including Grenfell Tower, there would be less geographic polarisation without any safe seats. STV has transformed Scottish local elections so that it is even possible for a Conservative to squeak into the last elected place to represent one of Glasgow’s poorest wards. So why can’t the wealthiest wards in Chelsea use it to replace their worst Tory councillors with some real representatives?
David Nowell
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

Continue reading...
          Fixed-odds betting terminal review delayed until autumn   

Rift between Treasury and DCMS over regulation and growing influence of DUP put a brake on timetable

A long-awaited review of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) has been delayed until the autumn, following a rift between the Treasury and the government department responsible for the gambling industry over regulation of the controversial machines.

The government’s decision has been further complicated by the fact that MPs in the Democratic Unionist party, which holds the balance of power in parliament, are in favour of cutting the maximum FOBT stake from £100 to as low as £2.

Definitely not in long grass. Process is really important on this issue.

Related: UK gamblers lose record £13.8bn as industry braces for FOBT crackdown

Related: MPs' report on FOBTs found to breach parliamentary standards

Continue reading...
          Why birds of a feather might bicker together | Letters   
Labour rebels | Remoaners | Minimum wage | Loose change | Charcoal toothpaste | Quarrelsome goldfinches

Thanks, Jeremy Corbyn, for making me feel like an utterly naive fool, after urging my first-time-voting twins that it’s worth voting for a party that will oppose a strong Brexit and protect workers’ rights (Report, 30 June). Sacking people for not agreeing: what a strong and stable example.
Elisabeth Young
Whitstable, Kent

• Your orgy of metrocentric remoaning (Letters, 30 June) overlooks once again the precariat, abandoned by socialists and liberals alike, who voted to end the mass free movement into the UK of poor east Europeans. Those leave voters aren’t racist or misinformed – they’re just ignored.
Chris Hughes
Leicester

Continue reading...
          Debate: Germany approves "Marriage for all"   
The German Bundestag decided in favour of same-sex marriage today, Friday, with the votes of the Social Democrats and the opposition. Chancellor Merkel had lifted the unanimity rule for members of her party. Papers in France speculate on what the next steps will be.
          Look at possible conflicts of interest in Trump team's OneWest Bank probes, 2 Democrats urge   

Two House Democrats want Congress to look into possible conflicts of interest in the Trump administration’s handling of investigations into Pasadena’s OneWest Bank — a bank formerly headed by now-Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Al Green (D-Texas) said...


          Textile Exchange Releases Globally Recognized Recycling Standards   

 Textile Exchange proudly announces the release of Recycled Claim Standard 2.0 (RCS) and Global Recycled Standard 4.0 (GRS). The newly revised versions of these #GlobalRecycled standards include updates that solidify the RCS and GRS as the leading standards for recycled materials in the apparel industry and ensure continued growth in other industries, including metal, plastics, electronics, packaging and beyond. 

Over the past year, a group of stakeholders was convened to review Textile Exchange's recycled standards. The International Working Group (IWG), led by Textile Exchange, included recyclers, manufacturers of recycled product, other recycled standard owners, brand and retail users of the standards, and certification bodies. Companies, including Unifi, Geentanjali Woolens, Hohenstein, H&M, and Global Organic Textile Standard were among the working group members.

“It was my honour being a part of the IWG for revision of the RCS & GRS Standards. The entire process was extremely democratic; everyone’s comments and suggestions were considered debated and then finalised. I thoroughly enjoyed dedicating my time to the IWG. The final standards are excellent, precise and address most of the processes and concerns involved in Recycling. We are confident that the implementation of the new RCS 2.0 and GRS 4.0 will encourage a lot more manufacturers to apply for certification making it more globally accepted."

-Deepak Goel, Geetnajali Woolens, PVT LTD.

The Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) and Global Recycled Standard (GRS) provide verification of recycled materials, and then track the material through to the final product. The GRS includes additional social, environmental and chemical processing requirements. In 2016, the number of units certified to the GRS grew from 595 to 961, a growth of over 60%. The RCS saw an almost 200% jump from 78 units in 2015 to 220 in 2016.

Key Changes to the #GlobalRecycled Standards

A key change in both standards is the introduction of the Reclaimed Materials Supplier Agreement. This document provides more visibility to the suppliers of reclaimed materials. Guidelines have been introduced for added clarity and consistency of recycling claims, including post-consumer and pre-consumer.

A key change in the Global Recycled Standard is the adoption of ZDHC's Manufacturing Restricted Substance List v1.1 (MRSL) (http://www.roadmaptozero.com/programme/manufacturing-restricted-substances-list-mrsl-conformity-guidance/). The MRSL has been developed by the industry to address intentional use of potentially hazardous substances. The MRSL will replace GRS's previous Prohibited Substance List. The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Programme takes a holistic approach to tackling the issue of hazardous chemicals in the global textile, leather and footwear value chain.

Other changes and additions include new examples of accepted recycled inputs, updated wastewater limits, and clarifications. You can read more details about the changes online: www.TextileExchange.org/Integrity.

Companies currently certified to one of the standards will be required to comply with the new versions by July 1, 2018. A list of approved Certification Bodies, currently certified companies, and all related documents are available on Textile Exchange’s website: www.TextileExchange.org/Integrity.  

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New release! Recycled Claim Standard 2.0 (RCS) and #GlobalRecycled Standard 4.0 (GRS) include significant updates: https://goo.gl/w9RjtT

Follow @TextileExchange on Twitter.

 About Textile Exchange: Textile Exchange, founded in 2002, is a global nonprofit organization that works closely with all sectors of the textile supply chain to find the best ways to create positive impacts on water, soil, air, animals, and the human population created by the textile industry. Textile Exchange accomplishes this by providing the knowledge and tools the industry needs to make significant improvements in three core areas: Fiber and Materials, Integrity and Standards, and Supply Network. A truly global organization, Textile Exchange is headquartered in the U.S. with Staff and Ambassadors located around the world. To learn more about Textile Exchange, visit: www.TextileExchange.org and follow us on Twitter at @TextileExchange.


          How the rise of Canada is in some ways greater than even America’s. By Conrad Black JUNE 30, 2017   
Canada has, as the French say, the fault of its qualities. Because it is always consensual and never revolutionary, it has relatively less drama than have had the other G-7 countries National Archives of Canada-PA-091061/ THE CANADIAN PRESS The countries that are today the G-7 leading democratic economic powers all underwent radical political changes between […]
          As GOP El Paso County Commissioners redraw their own district lines today, progressive activists have a message: We’re watching   
UPDATE: Members of the El Paso County Commission are set to vote on the new district lines today Democrats in Colorado’s heaviest Republican county are […]
          Democratic Connecticut House Leaders Have A Budget; Governor Is Unimpressed   
Connecticut House Democrats said they've come up with a two-year budget proposal that could be ready for a vote on July 18.
          Kony 2012 Campaign Catches Eyes Of Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga   

Campaign aims to bring African militia leader Joseph Kony to justice for war crimes and for enlisting children as soldiers.
By Gil Kaufman

<P>A campaign to stop the nearly 30-year, brutal rule of African militia leader Joseph Kony became a viral sensation this week. <a href="http://kony2012.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com" target="_blank">"Kony 2012,"</a> started by the group Invisible Children, aims to make Kony's face so famous that authorities will finally be able to arrest him and try him for his crimes. </P><P> </P><P>A 30-minute <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc" target="_blank">documentary</a> released on Monday is one of the keys to the campaign, and as of Thursday it had gotten more than 26 million views. The video details the atrocities carried out by Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army. The campaign appears to be working, as at one point on Wednesday, Invisible Children and #stopkony were trending higher on Twitter than Peyton Manning or the new iPad. </P><P> </P><P>Since 1987, human rights officials say Kony has forcefully abducted more than 60,000 children to be soldiers in his army and reportedly raped, mutilated and killed civilians in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan and displaced more than 2 million people. The leader is wanted for committing atrocities by the International Criminal Court and is being hunted down by 100 U.S. Special Forces advisers and local troops in four Central African nations, according to the <a href="http://bit.ly/AyrDyz"><I>Associated Press.</I></a> </P><P> </P><P>Kony 2012 is an effort to capture Kony and disarm the LRA before a reported window of opportunity closes. One way it plans to do that is by encouraging users to directly message a variety of stars to make use of their Twitter ubiquity to get the word out. Among those listed on the site are: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Jay-Z, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Ryan Seacrest and Ellen DeGeneres, along with a number of major policymakers. </P><P> </P><P>When users click on the celebs' photos, a tweet pops up that reads: Help us end #LRA violence. Visit kony2012.com to find out why and how. @timtebow Join us for #KONY2012. </P><P> </P><P><a href="http://act.mtv.com/posts/invisible-children-video-joseph-kony/">Get More on Invisible Children at ACT.MTV.com.</a></p>

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Source:
http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1680708/kony-campaign-justin-bieber-lady-gaga.jhtml

Hilary Swank Isla Fisher Ivana Bozilovic Ivanka Trump


          House Passes Kate’s Law Along With Anti-Sanctuary City Bill On Mostly Party Line Votes   
Unsurprisingly, most Democrats voted against both bills (CNN) House Republicans joined President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon in declaring war on sanctuary cities — passing legislation targeting the cities’ funding while hammering a message of the dangers posed by undocumented immigrants. “Kate’s Law” is named for Kate Steinle, a young woman murdered on a busy […]
          Governor declares state of emergency for troubled New York City transit system   

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that he has declared a state of emergency over New York City's troubled public transit system and has asked its new leader to complete a series of urgent reviews of the agency's management and aging infrastructure.

The Democratic governor said the state of emergency...


          The Non-Debate over Non-Reform   
As the discussion of health-care policy unfolds, what we are seeing is a non-debate over non-reform. The Democratic proposals promise to entrench the status quo, which does not fit with the principles of personal responsibility and fails to allocate resources sensibly.To show what I mean, hold up ten fingers. Each finger represents 10 percent of health-care spending in the United States. Five fingers -- half -- represent what is paid for by government programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Four of the remaining fingers represent what is paid for by private health insurance. One finger represents what individuals pay out
Read More ...
          EXCERPT: Hitler in Hell   
An excerpt from Martin van Creveld's new novel, Hitler in Hell. Please note that on the advice of one of our Amazon-bestselling authors, we have removed the book from the Castalia House bookstore for the time being and entered it into the Kindle Select program. It is now available via Kindle Unlimited; if you purchased the book from our bookstore but did not download it, please email us and we will make sure you receive you receive your book. We apologize if this causes any confusion.

Revolution and Collapse

Over the next few years, during which I began my political activity, I had plenty of opportunities to analyze the causes of the collapse. In fact, addressing them in numerous public meetings large and small, I did so until I was blue in the face. Some of my conclusions simply continued thoughts that had been with me during the war and even before it had started. The rest were directly related to our defeat.

The Second Reich, as it was widely known, had been born under an auspicious star amidst the thunder of victorious battle. For that we had Bismarck to thank and, coming right after him, Chief of Staff Helmut von Moltke and Minister of War Albrecht von Roon. Nothing symbolized it as well as the Siegessäule, or Victory Column, in Berlin. Originally sixty-seven meters tall, it was wrapped entirely by captured enemy cannons. In 1939, as part of my plan to renovate the city and to turn it into Europe’s capital, I had its height increased by another seven and a half meters. I also moved it from its original site at the Königsplatz (now misnamed the Platz der Republik) near the Reichstag to the Grosser Stern. But back to the Reich. Over the first forty-three years of its existence it enjoyed immense prosperity and economic growth. Simple people, who always and everywhere form the great majority, were impressed by that prosperity as well as the evident military strength of the Reich, which was put on display on appropriate occasions.

Having done so, they attributed the sudden collapse of the structure solely to the war, which had brought so much misery to them. But this is absurd. In fact, all the collapse did was to expose weaknesses that had long existed. Chief among them were general suffrage which Germany got before England, misleadingly known as the “mother of democracies,” did. On its heels came elections and democracy. All three were non-German elements of government. Initially, they were foisted on us by the professors of 1848, who wanted nothing better than to ape the “ideals” of the French Revolution. Once established, they quickly turned into a morass of useless chatter and corruption.

Next came the failure to properly deal with the liberated provinces, Alsace and Lorraine. As a result, they never truly became an integral part of the Reich. To repeat, Wilhelm II’s foreign policy was essentially misdirected. To add insult to injury it was often weak and vacillating as well.

Finally, there was the tolerance long shown for those vile Marxist traitors, the Social Democrats. Starting long before the war and redoubling their efforts while it lasted, they did whatever they could to foment discontent and to incite the people against the army and the government. Their ability to do so was due to the government’s inability or unwillingness to rein in the press. Not that the non-socialist press was necessarily better. Only parts of it supported the government in its conduct of the war, and much of it did what it could to undermine them.

Though the war was over, the British blockade still continued. Only in the middle of 1919 was it finally lifted, enabling us to resume our imports and exports. But this happened only to a very limited extent. Partly because of carelessness in August 1914, partly because of enemy action, and partly because no new merchantmen were built during the war, we had lost almost our entire merchant navy.
Much of what we still possessed had to be given away gratis as reparations. In any case the enemy had used the war to steal our overseas markets from us. This caused production to come to a halt and unemployment to soar. The demobilization of the armies, which at the end of the war still numbered several million men, added to the problem. That’s to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands maimed and crippled men who had to be taken care of in one way or another.

Determined to avenge themselves on us, our enemies took large parts of Prussia and Silesia, which had been German for centuries, if not longer, away from the Reich. This caused hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, who understandably were unwilling to live under Polish (mis)rule, to leave their homes to migrate to the west, where nothing had been done to receive them. Nor did the process of drawing the borders unfold peacefully. Throughout 1919, in many places, volunteer units known variously as Freikorps, or the Black Reichswehr, fought heroically, if ultimately unsuccessfully, to retain the lands in question.

All over Germany, wherever one looked, people shivered and hungered. It goes without saying that I detest that self-appointed artist and filthy pornographer, Georg Grosz. Luckily for him, he left the country in a hurry in 1933, or else I would have had him thrown into a concentration camp! Still I must concede that many of his sketches, which show starving workers, fat, evil-looking capitalists with heaps of money, and made-up prostitutes presented a true, if one-sided and perverted, picture of reality at the time. Much later, I learned that the origins of this misery had been explored in depth by the English economist John Maynard Keynes in his booklet The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919). He could hardly have done a better job.

Political conditions naturally reflected the economic situation. The new Social-Democratic government was unable to resist the Allied demands. So weak were the “statesmen” whom the so-called “Revolution” had brought to power that they signed the famous Kriegsschuld, war-guilt, article under which Germany assumed responsibility for the war. To be sure, history bristles with occasions when the defeated were not only despoiled but humiliated. However, the Kriegsschuld business was something new and unprecedented. Besides preparing the “legal” basis for extracting reparations, it hit straight at the nation’s soul, which, of course, was just what it had been meant to do.

Internally, the political situation was even worse. The Social Democrats, having successfully undermined public order, were unable to reimpose it. Everywhere workers, incited by their often Jewish leaders, spat on officers, tore the epaulets from their shoulders, and beat them up. So bad were conditions that many places were reduced to anarchy. That specifically included Bavaria and Munich, where I was stationed at the time and where the Jews set up a “Soviet Republic.” The stupidity of these people was truly amazing. During the few days the “Republic” lasted its foreign affairs commissar, Franz Lipp, whose record included several stays in mental hospitals, actually declared war on Switzerland. That was done, he explained, because the Swiss had refused to lend him sixty locomotives! At one point I myself, rifle in hand, had to chase away three scoundrels who had come to arrest me in my quarters.

In the end the Reichswehr, assisted by Freikorps units, re-took Munich and exacted a well-deserved vengeance. Eugene Leviné, the Jewish Communist who had led the uprising, was killed. Not so his uncouth right-hand man and fellow Jew, Erich Mühsam. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. But he did not have to stay there for long; in 1924 an amnesty was granted, and he was released. After the Reichstagbrand on 28 February 1933, I had him arrested and sent to a concentration camp where the boys, seeking their revenge, saw to it that he would expire. Good! As these two gentlemen illustrate so nicely, behind each and every one of these problems stood the Jews.
          Media Protect Elizabeth Warren in Senate Race   
Accuracy in Media Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has picked up the endorsement and fundraising support of entertainer Harry Belafonte, whose reputation as a calypso singer has been superseded by his service to international Marxism. During the Cold War, Belafonte sang at a “Concert for Peace” in communist East Germany, where he attacked President […]
          Kentucky Secretary Of State Denies White House Request For Voter Information   
NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic secretary of state for Kentucky, about resisting the Presidential Election Commission's requests for voter data from the states.
             
Another question for George Bush: How many times have you been arrested? Usually you wouldn't ask a sitting President a shameful question like this. But then a sitting President wouldn't challenge the honor of an opponent who risked his life for his country, while he used his daddy's influence to save his. As I've said before, during Vietnam, getting out of the draft was one of the things people were doing, it's not something to be ashamed of (that's why it's wrong for the Democrats to use this as a negative against Bush). But it's much worse to take shots at people who fought in Vietnam. This was one of the shames of the Vietnam era, that we didn't separate the failed war from the honor of the soldiers who did their duty. They came home to face a shame that wasn't theirs, it belonged to LBJ and Nixon, and the other leaders who got us into the quagmire. Today, Bush and his cronies perpetuate that shame. So he deserves to be asked shameful questions, and if he doesn't want to be asked then, he should be more careful about shaming Kerry.
          6/30/2017: MR. PREMIER-DESIGNATE   

B.C.’s New Democrats will return to power at the legislature for the first time in 16 years after toppling Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals Thursday and being asked by the lieutenantgovernor to form a government. NDP Leader John Horgan was summoned to...
          5th Annual Washington Kastles Charity Classic Returns Thursday, July 27   

Republicans and Democrats come together for the Washington Kastles Charity ClassicWASHINGTON, June 30, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Washington Kastles have announced that the 5th Annual Washington Kastles Charity Classic will take place on Thursday, July 27th in Kastles Stadium at the GW Smith Center. Pairing Republican and Democratic Members of Congress,...



          Los Angeles Times: Cheerleading for Privatization and the Trum-DeVos Agenda | Diane Ravitch's blog   
Los Angeles Times: Cheerleading for Privatization and the Trum-DeVos Agenda | Diane Ravitch's blog:

Los Angeles Times: Cheerleading for Privatization and the Trum-DeVos Agenda


The Los Angeles Times editorial board published an editorial todaychastising the California Teachers Association for resisting privatization of public education via charters.
I assume that this editorial was in no way influenced by Eli Broad, who subsidizes the Times’ education coverage, which is a blatant conflict of interest.
The editorial board can’t see any critics of charters other than teachers’ unions, who presumably are protecting their jobs by fighting off the agenda that Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are promoting.
It can’t see why parents and graduates of public schools (like me) think that turning public money over to private and unaccountable boards is a terrible idea.
One would think that the LA Times might express concern about the millions of dollars pumped into the school board race by billionaires like Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Richard Riordan, and the Waltons. How did it happen that the California Charter Schools Association become the most influential lobby in Sacramento? Isn’t the Times just a little bit curious about the deployment of big money? Have they noticed that the same money has bought the school boards in Denver, Indianapolis, and other cities? Are they aware that Reed Hastings longs for the day when democratically elected school boards are obsolete. Meanwhile, he is willing to spend whatever it takes to buy them.
One would think that a major metropolitan newspaper would worry about the power of big money to buy local school board elections. When did any of these billionaires ever have a child or grandchild in the LAUSD public schools? Why doesn’t the editorial question why they want so badly to buy the school board? What do they want?
One would think that the LA Times might have noticed the numerous Los Angeles Times: Cheerleading for Privatization and the Trum-DeVos Agenda | Diane Ravitch's blog:


          Should We Be Grateful? | educarenow   
Should We Be Grateful? | educarenow:

Should We Be Grateful? 

Image result for thanks for nothing animated gif

In an odd turn of events, and with little explanation, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has decided to return the state’s School Reform Office back to the Department of Education.
Why is this odd? Well, maybe it isn’t odd. What is odd is that Snyder initially removed the SRO from the Department of Education and placed it under the control of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget in March of 2015. And why did he do this? I’m honestly not sure anyone knows. However, the suspicion continues that this move was a means of moving the SRO out of the control of the state superintendent and the democratically elected (meaning accountable to us citizens) state school board. This certainly falls within Snyder’s established pattern of avoiding democracy. (Flint anyone?) He took what was ours.
In today’s statement, Snyder explains in an Orwellian sentence, “Improving our schools and holding them accountable for their performance is critical to Michigan’s students’ success.”
What?
Let’s fact check that. Detroit Public Schools (now named the Detroit Public Should We Be Grateful? | educarenow:

          In The Land Of Bill Gates, A Standoff Over Money For Schools | GOOD Education   
In The Land Of Bill Gates, A Standoff Over Money For Schools | GOOD Education:

In The Land Of Bill Gates, A Standoff Over Money For Schools
Not one of Washington State’s 13 resident billionaires pays a dime in income tax.



ZACHARY WARREN SPENDS A LOT OF HIS TIME THINKING ABOUT CHAIRS. Desk chairs, to be more specific. Though there’s a range of chair sizes in the classroom where he’s taught for years in the Seattle Public School system, he says, “They don’t fit the kids. The desks don’t fit the kids.”
The problem, Warren believes, is that public education in his state isn’t fully-funded. Which means equipment doesn’t always work. Or adequate supplies simply aren’t available. So teachers like him — who already struggle to make it on salaries that are well below what it takes to live in the blazing Seattle housing market — must dig into their own pockets to pay for them. And when it comes to desk chairs, well, they aren’t exactly available for a couple bucks at the corner store.
Teachers being asked to foot the bill isn’t a pattern that’s limited to Washington; it’s a nationwide problem, due in large part to the fact that teachers, who are evaluated on student success, can’t do their jobs without basic supplies. But it’s surprising that in a prosperous state with a booming economy — home to two of the world’s biggest corporations, Amazon and Microsoft — schools can’t seem to put the coins together to pay for pencils and paste.
It’s a familiar conundrum for the Washington State legislature. Colloquially referred to as the WaLeg, the state government entered its second special session this month, an extension to the 2017 legislative period. Though the word “special” is right in the name, there’s nothing unique or surprising about the fact that lawmakers are staying in Olympia, the capitol, for an extra 30 days. It happens almost every year.
Despite the state’s reputation as a liberal haven, the WaLeg is split nearly dead in half down the aisle (the Senate has 24 Democrats and 25 Republicans, while the House has 50 Democrats and 48 Republicans). It’s a division that has led to some unusual funding shortfalls in one of the nation’s wealthiest states: Not a single one In The Land Of Bill Gates, A Standoff Over Money For Schools | GOOD Education:



          NYC Educator: Reverend Al and His Pals Support Mayoral Control   
NYC Educator: Reverend Al and His Pals Support Mayoral Control:

Reverend Al and His Pals Support Mayoral Control


You can stop holding your breath. Al Sharpton has finally weighed in on the mayoral control issue, and he strongly supports it. You won't be surprised that some of his friends support it too. Mike Bloomberg was a big fan, and Arne Duncan has also supported it. Newt Gingrich has yet to weigh in because he's running around telling important lies about the GOP's most recent assault on health care.

Of course he trots out the standard line that scores have improved, ignoring the fact that this is a nationwide trend, mayoral control or no. Reverend Al further can't be bothered to notice New York's rich history of rampant test score manipulation. All the reformies jumped up and down when they improved under Reverend Al's pal Mike Bloomberg, and viciously ridiculed Diane Ravitch, who noticed the NAEP scores painted a vastly different picture. The following year, the New York Times and others noticed she was right, and Mike Bloomberg's draconian methods made no significant difference.

I particularly like this line:



There’s no disputing this fact: Mayoral control is the best way to run the largest public school system in the nation.

How could anyone argue with that, since there's no disputing it? But actually, there is. Diane Ravitch has been calling it a myth for years, and wrote in one of her books that it was a reformy shortcut to circumvent democracy. Bill Gates didn't spend $4 million promoting it just for fun,  Leonie Haimson calls it fundamentally undemocratic. I argued in the Daily News that it was destructive to public education. So there is, in fact, dispute, and I'd argue Sharpton has put forth one of those new and trendy "alternative facts" here.

I was particularly fond of this line:


First, public comment rules would change and the Board of Education would be able to meet in “executive session” — in other words, behind closed doors. The board could therefore make decisions without public comment.

I've been to many PEP meetings, as well as school closing hearings, and I've never seen Al Sharpton show his face. Had Sharpton bothered to show 
NYC Educator: Reverend Al and His Pals Support Mayoral Control:




          Special Nite Cap: Catch Up on Today's Post 6/29/17   

Special Nite Cap: Catch Up on Today's Post 6/29/17
Featured Post

Introversion in a Time of Loss | radical eyes for equity





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All Things Education: In Virginia primary, Democrats get a lesson: Being progressive means supporting public schools
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Introversion in a Time of Loss | radical eyes for equity
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The Jeff Bryant Report – Trump Is Vulnerable On Education. Do Democrats Care?
          Look at possible conflicts of interest in Trump team's OneWest Bank probes, 2 Democrats urge   

Two House Democrats want Congress to look into possible conflicts of interest in the Trump administration’s handling of investigations into Pasadena’s OneWest Bank — a bank formerly headed by now-Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Al Green (D-Texas) said...


          Product Designer - Udacity, Inc. - New Delhi, Delhi   
Udacity's mission is to democratize education. We're an online learning platform offering groundbreaking education in fields such as artificial intelligence,
From Udacity, Inc. - Thu, 29 Jun 2017 16:39:11 GMT - View all New Delhi, Delhi jobs
          U.S. Senate revises Russia sanctions bill, sends it to House   
The U.S. Senate reached an agreement on Thursday to resolve a technical issue stalling a new package of sanctions on Russia, although the measure's fate in the House of Representatives remained uncertain, lawmakers said. The legislation passed the Senate by a nearly unanimous 98-2 margin on June 15, looking like it might complicate President Donald Trump's desire for warmer relations with Moscow, where officials have denounced new sanctions. But it was blocked in the House, where Republican leaders said the Senate bill violated a constitutional requirement that any bill affecting government revenues originate in the House, something known as a "blue slip" violation. Lawmakers from the two chambers have bickered about the issue since. Democrats accused House Republican leaders of trying to kill the bill to please Trump after administration officials said they had concerns about it. Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters
          Trump says Repeal, Replace Later and Self-employed/Small businesses might lose affordable coverage!!!   
Like Trump's comment that took the nations breath away...:


Yet House and Senate Republican plans are getting trashed, not surprisingly, in this most recent poll:



So if Republicans can't prevent 23 million people from losing their health care insurance with a new plan, at least just dump the Affordable Care Act outright?


Dumb doesn't begin to describe taking this kind of chance with 8 percent of the economy. But get a load of what his in-the-tank true believing followers think:
Among Republicans, Trump wouldn't bear the brunt of the blame if Congress is unable to repeal and replace Obamacare. Just 6 percent would blame him, and half said they would blame congressional Democrats. Another 20 percent said they would blame GOP lawmakers.
Of course Republicans are only doing what voters wanted them to do...see graph....

The Senate's Better Care Act adds mind-boggling costly complexity to the U.S. health care system. 

For me, an "all payer system" is simple; every doctor is your doctor, every hospital is your hospital. No bills, no worries ever. .

Waaayyyyyy too easy say Republicans, who want us to spend days, months and years maneuvering through their nightmarish and complicated idea of free market freedom. One idea is so ridiculously convoluted and costly that it numbs the mind, making people join a group formed to manage health policy...seriously?
KFFDotOrg: Association Health Plans for Small Groups and Self-Employed Individuals under the Better Care Reconciliation Act: The Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), includes a provision to create new association health plan options for small employers and self-employed individuals ... the ACA requirement that premiums cannot vary based on health status does not apply in the large group market. Neither does the requirement for policies to cover ten categories of essential health benefits. 

SBHPs would be able to set premiums for small firm and self-employed members based on health and risk status ... However, in the event a covered individual becomes seriously ill or injured, nothing under federal law would prevent the SBHP insurer from raising the premium for that small employer or self-employed individual, even to unaffordable levels. This could lead to premiums in the traditional small group market becoming much higher for employers who need to seek coverage there ... making health insurance less affordable for sick individuals and small groups who would have to rely on them, and potentially not available at all.

          NRA Declares War on Liberals.    
I've been writing about the Republican authoritarian movement for some time now along with their sheepishly devoted voters. They've been vilifying liberals, progressives and Democrats for years. Not coincidentally, I've also noticed my conservative friend in Milwaukee has made the attacks more personal, with an arrogance rooted from one party rule. After all, they "won" and will never lose power again. And according to my friend, with the appointment of conservative judges, liberals will lose in the courts as well.  

NRA Ad Warning: What I've seen from tweets and blog commentary is perfectly summed up in the recent NRA ad. It is literally all there, with the added call to arms of course. Trump's blatant attack on the First Amendments very clear protections of the press, the rise of right wing media, and the many years of vilifying  "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," the NRA ad may be the marker right wing authoritarians have been waiting for. Especially after the way this ad hit the fan:


"They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse “the resistance.”

All to make them march. Make them protest. Make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding — until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.

And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.

I’m the National Rifle Association of America. And I’m freedom’s safest place."
As Vox's Zack Beauchamp put it:
This chilling NRA ad calls on its members to save America by fighting liberals: A liberal insurgency is destroying American society. The “only way” to protect yourself from this surge in left-wing violence (a made-up threat, to be clear) is to donate to the NRA.

In a 2013 op-ed, for example, NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre argued that a lawless America was inevitable if the liberals succeeded in their nefarious plan to take your guns … it functions as a kind of anti-politics — casting the NRA’s political opponents as devious enemies who can’t be opposed through normal politics. Republicans control all three branches of government and a large majority of statehouses nationwide. There is literally zero chance that any kind of major gun control passes in America in the foreseeable future.

The threat, instead, is from a kind of liberal-cultural fifth column: People who are acting outside of legitimate political channels to upend American freedoms, through protest and violence. It’s a paranoid vision of American life that encourages the NRA’s fans to see liberals not as political opponents, but as monsters.
The ad features right-wing pundit Dana Loesch, who seems determined to turn everything in our country beet red:


The NRA made the mistake of using "blue" as their background, making it ripe for parody, like this...


          Apple's iPhone turns 10, bumpy start forgotten   

Apple's iPhone turns 10 this week, evoking memories of a rocky start for the device that ended up doing most to start the smartphone revolution and stirring interest in where it will go from here.

Apple has sold more than 1 billion iPhones since June 29, 2007, but the first iPhone, which launched without an App Store and was restricted to the AT&T network, was limited compared to today's version.

After sluggish initial sales, Apple slashed the price to spur holiday sales that year.

"The business model for year one of the iPhone was a disaster," Tony Fadell, one of the Apple developers of the device, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. "We pivoted and figured it out in year two."

The very concept of the iPhone came as a surprise to some of Apple's suppliers a decade ago, even though Apple, led by CEO Steve Jobs, had already expanded beyond computers with the iPod.

"We still have the voicemail from Steve Jobs when he called the CEO and founder here," said David Bairstow at Skyhook, the company that supplied location technology to early iPhones.

"He thought he was being pranked by someone in the office and it took him two days to call Steve Jobs back."

The iPhone hit its stride in 2008 when Apple introduced the App Store, which allowed developers to make and distribute their mobile applications with Apple taking a cut of any revenue.

Ten years later, services revenue is a crucial area of growth for Apple, bringing in $24.3 billion (S$33.5 billion) in revenue last year.

New model

Fans and investors are now looking forward to the 10th anniversary iPhone 8, expected this fall, asking whether it will deliver enough new features to spark a new generation to turn to Apple.

That new phone may have 3-D mapping sensors, support for "augmented reality" apps that would merge virtual and real worlds, and a new display with organic LEDs, which are light and flexible, according to analysts at Bernstein Research.

A decade after launching into a market largely occupied by BlackBerry and Microsoft devices, the iPhone now competes chiefly with phones running Google's Android software, which is distributed to Samsung Electronics and other manufacturers around the world.

Even though most of the world's smartphones now run on Android, Apple still garners most of the profit in the industry with its generally higher-priced devices.

More than 2 billion people now have smartphones, according to data from eMarketer, and Fadell, who has worked for both Apple and Alphabet, sees that as the hallmark of success.

"Being able to democratize computing and communication across the entire world is absolutely astounding to me," Fadell said.

"It warms my heart because that's something Steve tried to do with the Apple II and the Mac, which was the computer for the rest of us. It's finally here, 30 years later."

on SPH Brightcove

Friday, June 30, 2017 - 09:54
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          Some states reject “voter fraud” commission's request for voter data   
Several Democratic state officials said Friday they will not comply with requests for information about voters
          NYT Retracts Claim That ’17 US Intelligence Agencies’ Verified Russian DNC Email Hack   
The New York Times has retracted its claim that all 17 US intelligence agencies agreed that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic emails in an effort to influence the 2016 election in favor of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
          Comment on Yoruba Leaders Took Bribes To Cover Abiola’s Killers – Al-Mustapha by We Didn't Take Bribes, Al-Mustapha Is A Liar - Opadokun   
[…] Former Secretary of the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) Ayo Opadokun, has described the ex-Chief Security Officer to Gen. Sani Abacha, Al-Mustapha Hamza, as a pathological liar for alleging that he, alongside some Yoruba leaders, took a bribe from the killers of MKO Abiola. […]
          "Internment Camp"   

Carlos Vera is with Pay Our Interns.

Senator Feinstein, one of the richest members of Congress, doesn't pay her interns. Senator Harris has "pledged to pay beginning in the Fall."

In the Huffington Post: Congress Called Out For Not Paying Interns:

The extent of the problem the report outlines is startling. In the U.S. Senate, 51 percent of Republicans pay their interns, while only 31 percent of Democrats offer paid internships. The rates in the House of Representatives are even worse, with 8 percent of Republican representatives and 3.6 percent of Democratic representatives paying their interns.

Interesting---and surprising---to learn that the Repugs are better overall about paying their interns than the Democrats. Good---and not surprising---to see that Bernie Sanders pays his interns.

See also Interns: Working for free and Internment Camp.


          The NRA and American fascism   


From Daily Kos:

...Since Donald Trump’s election, the organization of gun manufacturers and retailers known as the National Rifle Association has found it difficult to raise sufficient levels of paranoia. Gun sales are way down, and the highly profitable AR-15 style assault rifles that were snapped up when right wing media could simply point their cameras at a black man running the country, have been gathering dust.

How can the NRA restore sales? By convincing half of America to declare war on the other half.

Using quick cuts and black and white images, the video splices together incidents from across years and across the nation to make it appear as if America is already embroiled in a civil war. Though most of the images are of nothing but people marching or standing at protests, the fast cuts and violent language send clear signals of danger and threat.

Those images, of course, include an injured man in a Donald Trump T-shirt and a waving American flag. The injured man is from a scuffle that took place more than a year ago between groups of pro and anti Trump protesters, but in the video both the man and the flag are examples of how they are after us.

With more than 1 gun per person in the United States, and sales falling, the NRA clearly feels that they need to do something to bolster their “brand.” Civil war seems like just the ticket to sell a lot of guns. And even more ammo.


             
Since 1997 Handover Communist Chinese Allow Hong Kong to Prosper While US Democrats Destroy Major US Cities
          Trump mocks TV host: 'bleeding badly from a face-lift'    
President Donald Trump on Thursday ridiculed the brains, looks and temperament of a female cable television host whose show he says he has stopped watching. His latest crude broadside against a woman's appearance set off a storm of protest from Republicans and Democrats alike and did nothing to advance his struggling policy agenda.
          Capitol Watch Podcast: Klarides On The State Budget, Aetna And More   

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides joined the Capitol Watch podcast to discuss the budget, Aetna's move to New York and the future of Connecticut.

Although recorded before the House Democrats pitched a state budget Thursday, the Klarides still had concerns about what the Democrats were pitching...


          5 Things To Know Friday   

1. Sales Tax

House Democrats on Thursday unveiled a two-year budget that would increase the state sales tax to 6.99 percent. Lawmakers say the move would help cities and towns. However, much of the state Senate and Gov. Malloy are opposed to any sales tax hike. A vote on the budget is expected...


          AIMS Rwanda Graduation 2017   
The African institute for mathematical Sciences Rwanda Centre graduated its first ever cohort of students at a graduation ceremony held at the AIMS center in Kigali, Rwanda on 22nd June  2017 Forty-four students from 10 African countries, namely; Cameroon, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Sudan, Burundi, Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania received their Master’s of Science in Mathematical Sciences ...
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          ‘How do you find your way home each night?’ Olbermann prods Jack Kingston for ‘voter integrity’ shilling   
As states line up in opposition to President Donald Trump’s “voter integrity” commission (that many accuse of promoting voter suppression), one former GOP congressman is accusing them of “Democratic anarchy” — a comment that Keith Olbermann found hilarious. “...
          Ponta nu ar refuza o dezbatere cu Videanu, dacă acesta ar fi propus oficial premier de ARD   

Premierul Victor Ponta a declarat miercuri că este dispus să accepte să discute cu democrat-liberalul Adriean Videanu, însă numai cu o condiţie şi anume dacă acesta va fi propus pentru funcţia de premier din partea ARD. “Dacă îmi permiteţi un limbaj mai necolocvial, domnul Videanu are în general acest prost obicei de a ieşi ca […]

Citeste continuarea aici: Ponta nu ar refuza o dezbatere cu Videanu, dacă acesta ar fi propus oficial premier de ARD | Citeste mai multe stiri din politica locala: Politica Locala


          The Reality Show President   

People don't understand Trump because they don't understand Reality Television.


I have noted time and time again that Reality Television isn't real.  And many others have documented on YouTube and elsewhere how it is created.   You may not have a script with lines and direction, but you have suggestions and a rough outline.  You video your actors (and they are actors) for hours and hours and then in editing, using strategic cutaways, mood music, and snippets of conversations, create the story line you want.

The media is losing its collective mind over Trump - that is except Fox News.   Trump promises to save jobs at Carrier - and the jobs go away anyway.   And the number of jobs is pitiful to begin with.  Why is a President worried about 700 jobs at factory?   He promises to create new coal jobs and claims tens of thousands are "put back to work" in coal mines (what a treat!) when in fact, few, if any jobs have been created.   He claims that "clean coal" technology will save coal, in an era of dirt-cheap natural gas.   And in Mississippi, Southern Company decides to toss in the towel with "clean coal" as the technology simply doesn't work and the plant is converted to natural gas. 

But Trump continues with his Pepe-the-Frog shit-eating grin.  He doesn't seem bothered by the fact that the facts contradict almost everything he says or tweets.  Is he delusional?  Crazy?  Or just a reality television star?

Trump may be smarter than he appears, or at least more clever.   He doesn't really care about the 700 votes he'll get from Carrier employees (and likely lose, when their jobs go away).   What the rest of his supporters remember is that he "cared about the little man" and "saved jobs" even if the jobs weren't saved.   These are people getting their "facts" from Inforwars, not the New York Times.   So they believe that big coal is back on track, and Carrier is employing thousands more in Indiana, and Ford is building its new Focus in Detroit. 

With reality television, perception is the key, not reality.

In the Tee-Vee show, The Apprentice, people didn't actually work as an apprentice to Donald J. Trump.  They didn't "create a new hamburger" for Burger King.   If you believe this, you are a dolt.   What they did was get Burger King to sponsor the program, and then take a product that Burger King had already developed (or developed for the show) and then faked up a "contest" to have the "apprentices" appear to invent it.

But the plebes eat this shit up.  They all want to see the end part of the program where, in a conference room to the tune of dramatic music, Trump "fires" someone.   Of course it is all fake.  I mean, Celebrity Apprentice?   You really think Jay-Z is going to work every day at Trump Tower as Donald's butt-boy?

These are the kind of people who vote for Trump - people of low intellect who think reality television is real, or that American businesses are like The Jetsons, where someone gets "fired!" every week.  The reality of American business is that if you fired everyone who lead a project that was unsuccessful, you'd fire your entire staff every year and have a horrendous turnover rate.   Not all projects succeed, that is a given.  Which is why research is so expensive.  But then again, the projects and research on The Apprentice are all fake and the outcomes predetermined anyway.

This is what Trump is selling - The Reality Presidency.   And his fans eat it up.  He tweets outrageous things and says even more outrageous things - and people sit on the edge of their seat to see what outrageous thing he says next.   And the folks who hate Trump watch twice as much as those who like him.

But unlike television, ratings don't count for much in a Presidency.   But again, maybe that is where his real genius lies.   He was only days into his Presidency when he formed his re-election campaign.   Trump knows where the real battle ahead lies, not in legislative or executive branch "accomplishments" but in selling a narrative to his core base that he is "getting things done" and "saving jobs for little people" even as he knows it isn't true.

In a way, it is so beautiful how this is constructed.  He's reduced the Presidency to its essential core - all appearance and no real action.   He is, to some extent, like the Queen of England - cutting the ribbon at a new Tesco, but not really controlling the government.

And that is what most people want out of a President.   Not policy wonkism or carefully thought out foreign policy.  They want a President who speaks out about issues that are important to them.  Who says things that staid politicians shy away from.   Whether or not this accomplishes anything is actually secondary, what people want to hear is that the President is thinking of them.

And maybe there is precedent for this.   Teddy Roosevelt said that the Presidency was a "Bully Pulpit" and he used his position to rail against corruption and the trusts.   And people ate it up, even if his progressive agenda didn't go too far - and his hand-picked successor unraveled much of it.  He was a populist President, and one that many folks thought might be a bit reckless.

Another Roosevelt used a similar technique to his advantage.   Franklin Roosevelt certainly won the hearts and minds of many folks during the Great Depression by talking about their problems, even if he came from the same wealthy patrician family as his distant cousin.   Many "New Deal" programs were later invalidated by the courts, and many historians and economists debate the real effect of things like the "National Recovery Act" in turning around the economy.   The point is - and was - he was a populist.  Herbert Hoover didn't engage the troubled working class and showed that he cared about their plight, but was standoffish and talked about economic policy as if it didn't affect real people.

I am not comparing Trump to the two Roosevelts, of course.  Even Teddy was far, far smarter than the Donald.  But if you read his biography, Teddy was, in part, a "reality" star, traipsing off to Montana in his Abercrombie and Fitch dudewear, trying to remake himself as a cowboy, rather than the fop he was known as.   Teddy Roosevelt built a tennis court behind the White House, but famously remarked that he would never allow a photographer to take his photo holding a tennis racket, but rather holding a gun.   He knew about how to groom a public image.

President Trump isn't nearly as smart, of course.   But he knows how to groom a public image, as indeed, much of his life has been sent selling himself as a "brand" to other people, particularly in recent years, where his vaunted real estate deals amount to little more than branding arrangements.

The media is getting it all wrong, if they think they can debunk Trump with "the truth".  His supporters don't care about the truth, they care about appearances.   And their perception of the truth is shaped not by witty editorials in the Huffington Post, The New York Times, or The Washington Post, which largely go unread by the masses of his supporters.    They are getting their "truth" from shadowy conspiracy theory websites, Alex Jones, and Fox News.   And very likely, in four years, they will vote again for Donald Trump.

And he might win, if the Democrats put up a "progressive" candidate like Elizabeth Warren, who by all accounts is a nice and sincere person, but doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of winning in the States that count.

And given that the Democrats seem to spend an awful lot of time these days cow-towing to Bernie Sanders, who isn't even  a Democrat, I suspect we may see eight years of Donald Trump.   Not because he will win, but because the Democrats will lose.

          House Panel Advances Air Traffic Control Privatization Plan   
The Trump administration’s plan to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system moved forward in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Tuesday, despite concerted opposition from Democratic members of Congress.
          Ingeniero de Business Intelligence   
MercadoLibre - Buenos Aires - En Mercado Libre estamos democratizando el comercio y los pagos en América Latina. Tecnología es la esencia de nuestro producto. Nuestros equipos de desarrolladores, arquitectos, especialistas en base de datos, user experience, business intelligence, co-crean y son responsables...
          Analista de Riesgos   
MercadoLibre - Buenos Aires - En Mercado Libre estamos democratizando el comercio y los pagos en América Latina. En Administración & Finanzas gestionamos un negocio que crece con tasas de doble dígito, tomando decisiones de inversión y administración del crecimiento de todas las unidades de negocios, que im...
          The Bankrupt Philosophy of the Democrat Party   

The Democratic Party claim "17 US intelligence agencies say Russia hacked the 2016 election for Donald Trump," is turning out to be something very different from the Democrats’ dream.

The post The Bankrupt Philosophy of the Democrat Party appeared first on The Constitution.


          Senator Explains that Capitalism is the Best Solution to our Healthcare Woes   

For the last few months, Senator Rand Paul has been explaining why it is that every Democrat idea, and most of the Republicans ones, on healthcare are self-defeating

The post Senator Explains that Capitalism is the Best Solution to our Healthcare Woes appeared first on The Constitution.


          7/1/2017: TRAVEL & INDULGENCE: CHECK IT OUT PUBLIC, NEW YORK   

From the man who pioneered the modern-day boutique hotel more than 25 years ago, and gave the world Studio 54, comes a new “democratic” hotel brand, providing pared-back luxury at affordable prices. Located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Ian...
          Five graphs for 2017: mid year update   
Five graphs for 2017: mid year update – by New Deal democrat At the beginning of the year, I identified 5 trends that bore particular watching, primarily as potentially setting the stage for a recession next year.  Now that we are halfway through the year, let’s take another look at each of them. #5 Gas […]

          [wanabidii] Top Headlines: Indo-China border tension intensifies; both deploy 3,000 troops   
Times of India
Daily Newsletter | Friday, June 30, 2017
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TOP HEADLINESMORE »
Indo-China border tension intensifies; both deploy 3,000 troops
The ongoing troop face-off between India and China on the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction has emerged as the biggest such confrontation in the region in decades, with both sides continuing to pump in reinforcements. “Both sides are as yet not willing to budge from their positions," a source said.
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Noida identifies 3,000 land-grabbers
The GB Nagar district administration is getting ready to take strict action against the land mafia in the district. Having launched an intensive drive against land-grabbers about a month and a half ago, district magistrate B N Singh who heads the state’s anti-land mafia task force in GB Nagar, has identified more than 3,200 people who have illegally occupied 360 hectares of land.
Home buyers demand physical inspection of premises before completion certificates are handed over
Noida Extension Flat Owners Welfare Association has flagged the issue of completion certificates and occupation certificates being awarded simply on the basis of submission of paperwork with the Noida authority.
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It's been 10 years since the iPhone was launched, here's how it came about
Apple Inc's iPhone turns 10 this week, evoking memories of a rocky start for the device that ended up doing most to start the smartphone revolution and stirring interest in where it will go from here.
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Will give opinion only if BCCI asks for it: Kohli on coach row
Skipper Virat Kohli on Thursday made it clear that he will air his views on new coach only if his opinion is sought by the BCCI. With Ravi Shastri throwing his hat in the ring, Kohli's proximity with the former Team Director, many feel that it made him a runaway favourite for the top job.
Super Smriti guides India to easy victory over West Indies
Opener Smriti Mandhana made amends for missing out on a hundred against England with a scintillating unbeaten 106 guiding India to a comfortable seven -wicket victory against West Indies in the ICC Women's World Cup on Thursday.
Mary Kom pep talk inspires Indian women's hockey team
Battling against odds has been the hallmark of her illustrious career and that's precisely what MC Mary Kom told the members of the Indian women's hockey team as they embark on their journey to qualify for 2018 World Cup to be held in London.
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Sensex is now forecast to rise a further 7 per cent to 33,000 by the end of December from Wednesday's close of 30,834, according to the poll of 50 strategists taken June 19-28. It is then expected to reach 34,500 by the middle of next year.
Gold premiums jump significantly ahead of GST rollout
India's gold premiums jumped to the highest level in seven and half months this week as consumers advanced purchases to avoid paying higher tax when a new nationwide sales tax takes effect from July 1.
GST will be India's 'economic freedom': Anil Ambani
Ambani said the world has seen nothing like this before and in less than 48 hours, India will emerge as the biggest free and democratic market in the history of humankind. He also said there are moments in the life of a nation when history is made not in small steps of incremental gain but in giant leaps of ambition.
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          [wanabidii] News Digest: Here's how GST will affect your dating game   
THE TIMES OF INDIA
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Today's Headlines

Here's how GST will affect your dating game
As India prepares for its midnight tryst with GST on Friday, your dating game may see a change come July, with pretty much everything you indulge in during your romantic rendezvous coming under the new tax regime.

GST will be India's 'economic freedom': Anil Ambani
Ambani said the world has seen nothing like this before and in less than 48 hours, India will emerge as the biggest free and democratic market in the history of humankind. He also said there are moments in the life of a nation when history is made not in small steps of incremental gain but in giant leaps of ambition.

Only the brave will take on Air India: Anand Mahindra
Media reports have speculated that Tata Group could buy a stake in Air India, which it owned before the carrier was nationalised nearly 70 years ago. Tata is yet to comment. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is to head a committee to decide the quantum of Air India disinvestment

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Ice-free areas of Antarctica to increase by 2100: Study
Ice-free areas may increase in Antarctica by 25 per cent due to climate change, leading to drastic changes in the continent's biodiversity, a study warns. They found the melting ice could create up to 17,000 square kilometre of new ice-free area across Antarctica.

Rare Siamese crocodile eggs found in Cambodia
Conservationists have found a nest with 19 eggs from one of the world's most endangered crocodiles. It is boosting hopes for species threatened by poachers and habitat loss. Researchers believe only 400 adults still exist in the wild, the baby crocodiles will be raised at a conservation centre

Iraqi zoo gives rare glimpse of white lion
An Iraqi zoo showed off a rare white lion cub to mark the animal's first birthday this week, as officials revealed that they hoped to welcome another of the rare big cats in the coming weeks.

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Iraq military says it has retaken iconic Mosul mosque

China 'highly alarmed' after reports of Australian spying

Donald Trump: Different strokes

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In rural Kentucky, solar eclipse preparation keeps town busy

NASA's quieter supersonic jet closer to reality
The US space agency completed the preliminary design review (PDR) of its Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) aircraft design. QueSST is the initial design stage of NASA's planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) experimental airplane, otherwise known as an X-plane.

Yoga not as safe as thought: Study
Yoga may not be as safe as popularly believed, say scientists who have found that the ancient Indian meditative practice may causes muscle and bone pain and even exacerbate existing injuries.

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Moto Z2 smartphone with 64GB internal storage, 4GB RAM spotted online
Lenovo-owned Motorola recently launched its Moto Z2 Play modular smartphone. It seems that the company is now gearing up for the launch of its flagship sibling – Moto Z2. The alleged handset has been spotted on GFXBench benchmarking website, hinting at some of its specifications.

Sony Xperia Z5, Xperia Z4 and Xperia Z3+ to get Android 7.1.1 update
Sony has started rolling out Android 7.1.1 Nougat update for some of its smartphones. The company has started rolling out Android N update for Xperia Z5, Xperia Z5 Compact and Xperia Z5 Premium, Xperia Z3+ and Xperia Z4 tablet.

It's been 10 years since the iPhone was launched, here's how it came about
Apple Inc's iPhone turns 10 this week, evoking memories of a rocky start for the device that ended up doing most to start the smartphone revolution and stirring interest in where it will go from here.

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Plus III admissions 2017: DHE Odisha declares first selection list
The Department of Higher Education (DHE) has declared the first selection list for +3 admissions on their official website today.

TS EAMCET seat allotment 2017 result declared

TN govt's new policy of reserving 85% quota for state board students challenged in High Court

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60,000 officers trained, 6.5 million tax payers migrated to GST: Centre to Bombay HC

Without sentencing, verdict not complete; case against Dossa abates
The death of Mustafa Dossa before the pronouncement of sentence has resulted in abatement of his trial. His trial thus cannot be said to culminate into a judgment. Though the fact will remain that the court had found him guilty, however the further process of convicting and sentencing him having remained incomplete, no appeal can lie against an incomplete judgment, said retired high court judge Justice P D Kode.

Indrani Mukerjea's claim of being beaten up in Byculla jail true: Doctor
​Indrani Mukerjea has received some blunt injuries and other (injuries) as well, said a medical officer of JJ Hospital. "Her medical report will be submitted in court, as the medical check-up was ordered by the court," the officer said.

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Admission chaos in DU as cut-offs set to drop by 3% in second list

Mob attacks: MEA's different rules for different governments?

Protesters disrupt Delhi Assembly, allegedly beaten up by MLAs
The first day of Delhi Assembly's special session was abruptly suspended for close to an hour after two AAP volunteers dropped pamphlets into the House from the visitors' gallery and shouted slogans against PWD minister Satyendar Jain.

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Government may table diluted anti-superstition bill

Sandalwood land short of quality saplings

UK architect: Kolar set to get biggest Hoysala-style temple in modern era

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2011 attack on Akbaruddin Owaisi: 4 convicted, Mohammed Pahelwan acquitted
The prime accused in the 2011 case of murderous attack on (AIMIM) MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi, Mohammed Bin Omar Yafai alias Mohammed Pahelwan, was sensationally acquitted on Thursday by Nampally court. However, 4 out of the 14 who faced trial were convicted by the court.

Telangana-Fiber to be turned into private firm
The Telangana government has decided to establish T-Fiber as a private limited company under the Companies Act 2013.

'Taakis' razed, turned into swanky commercial bldgs
Popularly known as taakis, single screen theatres of the Old City are fast becoming a rarity in the area south of Musi river. With several being either demolished, largely abandoned or turned into swanky commercial complexes, residents, who are film aficionados, have few options left in the Old City.

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250 wigs distributed to patients in Cancer Institute in Chennai
When chairperson of Cancer Institute Dr V Shanta spoke at an event on Wednesday for distributing natural hair wigs to cancer patients, she tried to clear various misconceptions about the disease.

CM announces Rs 1,800cr power transmission upgradation for Chennai
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Thursday announced a slew of programmes for various departments, including Rs 1,800 crore worth transmission upgradation programme for Chennai city, with an installation of new substations and feeders.

DVAC is probing gutka scam, Tamil Nadu CM says
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Thursday informed the assembly that the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption is conducting a probe based on a communique sent by the Chennai city police commissioner to the home secretary on the sale of banned gutka by anti-socials, in connivance with a minister and some police officials.

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Narmada project will take Gujarat to new heights: Modi

Completion of Narmada dam will take Gujarat's development to great heights: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi who arrived at Ahmedabad Airport for his two day visit to state addressed the huge gathering of BJP workers. Modi in his brief address said that the recent completion of the Narmada dam work will take Gujarat development to greater heights in the upcoming decade.

Gujarat Congress demanded roll back of high level of GST on life and health insurance premium

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Allahabad Development Authority to help city build on strengths
Authority Identifies Five-Pillar Approach

Cheoki to turn into satellite station
As the city prepares for Ardh Kumbh 2019, the facilities at Cheoki station of NCR would also be upgraded.An amount of Rs 50 crore has been earmarked for the purpose.

Household herb Chandrashoor fights diabetes

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Kangaroo mother care helps Odisha in sharp decline IMR

GST: Fishing nets, ropes to get costlier
Thousands of fishermen are now worried about their livelihood as they have to invest more in fishing net and rope when the Goods and Service Tax (GST) comes into being on July 1.

Panel recommends sale of Mahaprasad by administration
At present, the Mahaprasad is sold in Ananda Bazaar by a section of priests of Suar Nijog of the temple, leading to discrepancy in prices of the holy food.

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          Illinois House adjourns, plunging state into third year without a budget   
Illinois House lawmakers adjourned Friday without approving a budget, officially entering a third fiscal year without one, but with optimism that a deal can be reached over the weekend.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan conceded Friday morning that a budget deal wouldn't be consummated by midnight – the start of the 2018 state fiscal year – and implored the major bond ratings agencies not to downgrade the state’s credit rating to junk status.

But House lawmakers offered up a glimmer of hope with a bipartisan 90-25 test vote to approve a $36.5 billion spending plan fueled by a $5 billion income tax increase.

Lawmakers and experts statewide had warned for months about the host of bad consequences that await the state should it enter an unprecedented third straight year without a budget, courtesy of the differences between the Democratic-dominated General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

They go far beyond becoming the first U.S. state to be have its credit rating dip below investment grade. For starters, Comptroller Susana Mendoza has said she will be unable to cover the basic state services ordered paid by courts, and the Illinois State Department of Transportation has halted all of its road construction projects.

“We will remain in session to continue our progress toward passing a balanced budget," Madigan said in the statement. "In light of this ongoing progress, I would ask that bond rating agencies temporarily withhold judgment and allow legislators time to negotiate a bipartisan, balanced budget."

Madigan’s statement included letters he sent Friday to Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service. Standard & Poor’s warned several weeks ago that it will downgrade the state to junk should it not have a budget by Saturday, and the other two agencies could follow suit.

"We will continue working to put a compromise on the governor’s desk and end this impasse through the next week, and I ask you to allow these negotiations to move forward," Madigan wrote to all three ratings firms.

Illinois' current spending, mandated by court orders and consent decrees despite the lack of a budget, has resulted in a $6.2 billion deficit and a $14.7 billion stack of unpaid bills as of Friday afternoon.

The proposed budget in the House relies on increasing the state income tax and cutting $2.4 billion.

The revenue plan conceived by House Democrats likely would increase the income tax rate for individual filers by 32 percent, or from 3.75 to 4.95 percent of income. The increase would take effect Saturday – earlier versions that made the increase retroactive to Jan. 1 met with resistance from Republicans.

If approved, it would take on average an extra $600 a year from a worker making $50,000 a year.

The 4.95 percent rate is close to the 5 percent rate that Illinois taxpayers paid for four years after lawmakers raised taxes in the lame-duck session after the 2010 election. That temporary increase, which raised the individual rate by 66 percent, took an average of a week's pay from every Illinois worker.

Rauner, who was elected in 2014 on a platform of reversing Illinois' sinking fortunes, has insisted that any budget that includes tax increases must include sufficient pro-taxpayer and pro-business reforms. They include a four-year property tax freeze, and reforms to workers' compensation laws and changes to pension benefits for state employees.

The bitter partisan divide in Springfield over how to come together on a spending plan has eased in significant part to cooperation as Republicans and Democrats alike work to avoid the nightmare scenario that experts warn will come to pass if a budget isn't finalized, and fast.

"I come to you today with great joy, not with regret or despair. We're going to save our state, and we're going to save it together," Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva, the House Republicans' floor leader, said to thunderous applause.

Andersson, whose district includes a sliver of McHenry County, was the only local house lawmaker who voted yes on the 90-25 test bill. Republican Reps. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills; Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake; Steven Reick, R-Woodstock; and Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, all voted no.

Skillicorn said that Illinois taxpayers will be giving more to the state in exchange for weak and "watered down" reforms.

"It's pretty clear to me that the governor and a large portion of Republicans have capitulated to the speaker," Skillicorn said. "The appropriations amendment didn't have any substantial cuts, no structural reforms, and really was something that compromises the values of the people of McHenry County."

McSweeney, as he has since the budget impasse started, reiterated that he is a "hell no" on any tax increase.

"There's nothing that's been done to reform Illinois government or spending. It's a travesty. It's a joke," McSweeney said.

Whatever plan the House passes will need to clear the Senate before going to Rauner for a vote. Senate Democrats approved a budget in May in the last days of the legislative session – without a single Republican vote – but Madigan did not bring it forward for consideration.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


          President Trump urges GOP to repeal Affordable Care Act law now, replace later   
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump urged divided congressional Republicans on Friday to break their logjam over dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law by "immediately" repealing it and replacing it later, a formula that GOP leaders dismissed months ago as politically unwise.

Trump's early-morning tweet embraced a sequential approach favored by only a handful of conservatives eager to take quick action on one of the party's foremost priorities — repealing Obamacare, something Republicans have long promised to do. But his suggestion threatened to sharpen divisions between conservatives and moderates, who are leery of stripping coverage from millions of constituents without something to substitute for it.

"If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!" Trump tweeted.

Supporters of that idea include Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Rand Paul, R-Ky.

House and Senate leaders long ago abandoned initial thoughts of first erasing Obama's law, and then replacing it.

Such a step-by-step approach would leave Republicans vulnerable to Democratic accusations that they were simply tossing people off coverage without helping them obtain medical care. And the idea would leave unresolved the quandary stumping lawmakers today — how to replace Obama's system of online insurance markets, tax subsidies and an expanded Medicaid with something that will get enough Republican votes to pass Congress.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to comment on Trump's tweet.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans were considering breaking a stalemate over what their replacement bill should do by preserving a tax boost Obama's law imposed on high earners. Keeping that tax increase in place was a bid to woo party moderates and rescue their sputtering push to repeal his health care overhaul.

The break from dogma by a party that has long reviled tax boosts — and most things achieved by Obama — underscores McConnell's feverish effort to rescue the Senate legislation from the brink of possible defeat.

The money from the tax boost would instead be used to bolster proposed health care subsidies for lower-income people.

The change, proposed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would give a more populist flavor to the bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that as the legislation now is written, it would boost out-of-pocket costs for many poor consumers and produce 22 million uninsured people while cutting around $700 billion in taxes over a decade — largely for richer people and the health care industry.

"You're increasing the burden on lower-income citizens and obviously alleviating the burden on the wealthy. That is not an equation that works," Corker said. He said he was "very confident" that leaders would address the issue in the updated bill.

Top Republicans also considered an amendment pushed by conservatives to let insurers offer plans with low premiums and scant benefits. To do so, a company would also have to sell a policy that abides by the consumer-friendly coverage requirements in Obama's 2010 statute, which the GOP is struggling to repeal.

Both proposals were encountering internal Republican opposition, and it was uncertain either would survive.

McConnell postponed a vote on an initial version Tuesday because of opposition from conservatives and moderates alike. By this week's end, he wants to nail down changes that would assure the bill's passage after Congress' weeklong July 4 recess. No more than two of the 52 GOP senators can oppose the measure for him to prevail, and there were no indications he'd achieved that margin as senators left town Thursday.

"We're kind of at a stalemate right now, I'd say," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who with Ohio GOP Sen. Robert Portman and others wants to forestall reductions the measure would make in Medicaid.

The Medicaid program for low-income and disabled people has grown dramatically in their states and others, but the Republican bill would cut it, with reductions growing over time.

Under Corker's proposal, the bill would retain Obama's 3.8 percent tax increase on investment income for married couples making more than $250,000 a year and individuals making more than $125,000. Keeping that increase would save $172 billion over 10 years, and moderates want to use that money to make coverage more affordable for poorer consumers.

Conservatives said they opposed the idea, along with the chairmen of Congress' two tax-writing committees: Senate Finance chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

Also in play was a proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to let insurers offer skimpier policies, which conservatives say would lower premiums.

Moderates oppose that, especially if it lets insurers raise premiums on people with pre-existing medical problems.

Republicans also said party leaders agreed to add $45 billion for battling opioids abuse to their bill. They were also considering a proposal by conservatives to let people use tax-advantaged health savings accounts to pay health care premiums.


          MSNBC 'Morning Joe' hosts fire back at Trump Twitter blasts   
NEW YORK – "Morning Joe" hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski said Friday that President Donald Trump lied about their December encounter in a tweet and that his "unhealthy obsession" with their program doesn't serve his mental health or the country well.

The two MSNBC personalities postponed a vacation in order to respond to Trump's tweet, which drew broad condemnation a day earlier because he called Brzezinski "crazy" and said she was "bleeding badly from a face-lift" when he saw them at his Florida estate.

"It's been fascinating and frightening and really sad for our country," Brzezinski said on their program.

"We're OK," said Scarborough, her co-host and fiance. "The country's not."

The hosts, who also co-bylined a column that was posted on The Washington Post's website on Friday, said they had known Trump for more than a decade and have "fond memories" of their relationship, but that he's changed in the past two years. They were at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida shortly before the New Year in December to encourage Trump to give them an interview.

Brzezinski, who said she's alarmed at how the president deals with women who disagree with him, said she believed her teasing about a Post story about fake Time magazine covers with Trump's face hanging at his golf facilities is what precipitated the latest Twitter attack.

"It is unbelievably alarming that this president is so easily played, he is easily played by a cable news host," she said. "What does that say to our allies? What does that say to our enemies?"

They said Trump was lying about Brzezinski having a face-lift, although "she did have a little skin under her chin tweaked."

Their program and Trump have had a tortured relationship. They were criticized by some for being too close to Trump during the campaign and giving his candidacy an early boost, but have turned sharply against him. Brzezinski in recent weeks has wondered whether Trump was mentally ill and said the country under his presidency "does feel like a developing dictatorship."

The hosts said that they've noticed a change in Trump's behavior over the past few years that left them neither shocked nor insulted by the Thursday tweet.

"The guy who is in the White House now is not the guy we know," Scarborough said.

Trump on Thursday had launched a crude Twitter attack on the brains, looks and temperament of Brzezinski, drawing bipartisan howls of outrage and leaving fellow Republicans beseeching him: Stop, please just stop.

Trump's tweets revived concerns about his views of women in a city where civility already is in short supply and he is struggling for any support he can get for his proposals on health care, immigration and other controversial issues.

"I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore)," Trump tweeted to his nearly 33 million followers Thursday morning. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

The tweets served to unite Democrats and Republicans for once in a chorus of protest that amounted to perhaps the loudest outcry since Trump took office.

"Obviously I don't see that as an appropriate comment," said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump's tweets, "blatantly sexist." The president, she added, "happens to disrespect women ... it's sad."

Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma even linked the president's harsh words to the June 14 shootings of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others.

"The president's tweets today don't help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue," Lankford said, noting that he had just chaired a hearing on the shootings.

On Trump's level of insult-trading, Brzezinski responded on Twitter by posting a photograph of a Cheerios box that included the phrase "made for little hands." People looking to get under the president's skin have long suggested that his hands appear small for his frame.

Trump's allies cast his outburst as positive, an example of his refusal to be bullied.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was "pushing back against people who have attacked him day after day after day. Where is the outrage on that?"

"The American people elected a fighter; they didn't elect somebody to sit back and do nothing," she added.

First lady Melania Trump, who has vowed to fight cyberbullying while her husband is president, gave his tweets a pass.

"As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder," her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.

The White House has shown increasing irritation over harsh coverage of the president on Brzezinski and Scarborough's "Morning Joe," including commentary questioning Trump's mental state.


          Germany legalizes same-sex marriage after Merkel u-turn   
BERLIN — German lawmakers voted Friday to legalize same-sex marriage after a short but emotional debate, bringing the country in line with many of its Western peers. Though Chancellor Angela Merkel voted against the measure, she paved the way for its passage by freeing other members of her party to vote their "conscience."

Lawmakers voted 393 for legalizing "marriage for everybody" and 226 against, with four abstentions.

Merkel said Monday that lawmakers could take up the issue as a "question of conscience," allowing members of her conservative coalition, which has been against same-sex marriage, to individually vote for it.

That prompted her center-left rivals to quickly call for a snap vote on the issue, adding it to the agenda Friday on parliament's last regular session before Sept. 24 elections.

While some in Merkel's conservative bloc spoke against the measure, Berlin Christian Democrat Jan-Marco Luczak urged his fellow party members to vote for same-sex marriage.

"It would be absurd to try and protect marriage by preventing people to marry," he told lawmakers.

Many applauded Merkel's comments that opened the way for the vote, but Social Democrat lawmaker Johannes Kahrs noted in the debate that the chancellor had been a longtime opponent of gay marriage.

"Many thanks for nothing," he said bluntly.

Germany has allowed same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships since 2001, but has not granted them full marital rights, which include the possibility to jointly adopt children.

The new law won't take effect for several months because it still needs to pass the upper house of Parliament and be approved by the president, though those are formalities. It is also expected to face legal challenges.

Merkel told reporters after the vote that her vote against the measure was based upon her reading of the country's law concerning marriage and that she did think gay couples should be able to adopt.

Germany's basic law is vague, saying only that "marriage and the family shall enjoy the protection of the state," but Merkel said that for her "marriage as defined by the law is the marriage of a man and a woman."

She added, however, that she stood by her contention that the interpretation was a "question of conscience" and urged all views to be respected.

"It was a long, intensive, and for many also emotional discussion, that goes for me personally too, and I'm hopeful not only that there will be respect for either side's opinions, but that it will also bring about more peace and cohesion in society," she said.

All of Merkel's potential coalition partners after the September election, including the center-left Social Democrats of her challenger, Martin Schulz, have been calling for same-sex marriage to be legalized.

It is not clear whether Merkel thought her Monday comments would prompt such a quick vote, but many analysts have suggested that by opening the door to gay marriage the chancellor removed yet another issue that might have helped her opponents in their campaigns against her.

In nearly 12 years as chancellor, Merkel has moved her party to the center and away from conservative orthodoxy, speeding up Germany's exit from nuclear power and ending military conscription among other moves.


          Trump criticized for trash-talking MSNBC hosts   
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump launched a crude Twitter attack on the brains, looks and temperament of a female TV personality Thursday, drawing bipartisan howls of outrage and leaving fellow Republicans beseeching him: Stop, please just stop.

Trump's tweets aimed at MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski revived concerns about his views of women in a city where civility already is in short supply and he is struggling for any support he can get for his proposals on health care, immigration and other controversial issues.

"I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore)," Trump tweeted to his nearly 33 million followers Thursday morning. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

The tweets served to unite Democrats and Republicans for once in a chorus of protest that amounted to perhaps the loudest outcry since Trump took office.

"Obviously I don't see that as an appropriate comment," said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump's tweets, "blatantly sexist." The president, she added, "happens to disrespect women ... it's sad."

Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma even linked the president's harsh words to the June 14 shootings of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others.

"The president's tweets today don't help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue," Lankford said, noting that he had just chaired a hearing on the shootings.

On Trump's level of insult-trading, Brzezinski responded on Twitter by posting a photograph of a Cheerios box that included the phrase "made for little hands." People looking to get under the president's skin have long suggested that his hands appear small for his frame.

Trump's allies cast his outburst as positive, an example of his refusal to be bullied.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was "pushing back against people who have attacked him day after day after day. Where is the outrage on that?"

"The American people elected a fighter; they didn't elect somebody to sit back and do nothing," she added.

First lady Melania Trump, who has vowed to fight cyberbullying while her husband is president, gave his tweets a pass.

"As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder," her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.

As Trump welcomed South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a White House dinner Thursday evening, he did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about whether he regretted the tweet.

Some of the administration's most high-profile women – daughter and presidential assistant Ivanka Trump, Counselor Kellyanne Conway and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell – did not respond to requests for comment.

The White House has shown increasing irritation over harsh coverage of the president on Brzezinski and Scarborough's "Morning Joe," including commentary questioning Trump's mental state.

About two hours before his tweets, Brzezinski said on the show that "it's not normal behavior" for any leader to be tweeting about people's appearances or to be bullying, lying, undermining managers and throwing people under the bus. She said that if any business executive behaved the way Trump does, "there would be concern that perhaps the person who runs the company is out of his mind."

On Wednesday, she had mocked Trump after a story in The Washington Post said he had posted fake Time magazine covers of himself in some of his golf resorts.

"Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine about himself, lying every day and destroying the country," Brzezinski said.

Trump, who has a habit of throwing up distractions to deflect bad news, has been straining to advance his agenda lately, with the Senate this week coming up short in finding enough votes to begin debate on a bill to roll back President Barack Obama's health care law.

His demeaning broadside against a woman raised new complaints among critics who have long accused him of sexism and inflaming tensions in a deeply polarized nation. Trump also has consistently stoked a long-running feud with the press that has not hurt him with his base of roughly a third of the electorate.

But one expert rejected the idea that Trump's tweets about the MSNBC hosts amounted to a calculated push-back against the media.

"It's not a critique of the press. It's a diatribe. It's a rant," said Theodore L. Glasser, professor emeritus at Stanford University and an expert in mass media.

It wasn't the first time Trump has assailed a television personality who is a woman. In 2015, he went after then-Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly when she questioned him at a debate. Trump said later that during the exchange, Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever."

It's also far from the only time he's raised eyebrows with remarks about the physical attributes of women. Just this week in the Oval Office, Trump interrupted his phone conversation with the new prime minister of Ireland to remark on a "beautiful" Irish journalist in the room and take note of the "nice smile on her face."

The latest flare-up did nothing to improve Trump's chances of advancing the health care bill that formed a centerpiece of his campaign.

"This has to stop - we all have a job - 3 branches of gov't and media," tweeted Republican Susan Collins of Maine, a critic of the Senate GOP bill. "We don't have to get along, but we must show respect and civility."

Tweeted Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic: "Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office." Agreed South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham: "Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America."

Brzezinski and Scarborough, who are engaged, have known Trump for years and interviewed him numerous times during the campaign. But they have been highly critical of Trump since he took office.

They did meet with Trump at his Florida estate on New Year's Eve for what they described as a brief visit, and also spent time with the president and senior staff at the White House in February. But Brzezinski supporters disputed Trump's characterization of the Mar-a-Lago meeting, saying it was the president who repeatedly asked the couple to visit him. Brzezinski and Scarborough were staying in the area for the holidays.

NBC News spokeswoman Lorie Acio said in a statement, "It's a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job."


          Illinois legislative leaders meet; no word on budget deal   
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ legislative leaders met twice Thursday but surrendered few details about how close they are to a budget pact with one day remaining before the start of a third consecutive fiscal year without a spending plan

The relatively calm day in an otherwise cacophonous Capitol was interrupted by the announcement that the Senate’s minority leader, Lemont Republican Christine Radogno, would vacate her Senate seat Saturday, although she pledged to keep working until the moment of her departure.

The first woman to lead a caucus in the Illinois General Assembly stepped forward last winter to broker a budget compromise with Democratic Senate President John Cullerton. She faced disappointment when she could get none of her 21 other Senate Republicans to go along with the “grand bargain” they fashioned, but told reporters she is not a casualty of the contentious, two-year budget battle.

“Though I leave political office with a sense of sadness and some disappointment, I leave with no regrets,” Radogno said. “I did my best – that’s all I could do.”

Without a budget by Saturday morning, bond-rating houses have threatened to downgrade Illinois’ creditworthiness to “junk” status. Universities could face the loss of academic accreditation and the treasury will soon run short of money to cover even the court-ordered payments that have kept Illinois government on autopilot while erecting a $6.2 billion annual deficit and $14.6 billion in past-due bills.

House Speaker Mike Madigan said the House would vote Friday on the Democrats’ version of an annual budget, a $36.5 billion spending plan they said spends $800 million less than Rauner himself proposed last winter. Without elaboration, Madigan said negotiations continue over Rauner’s demands that are tangential to the budget, including cost-cutting changes to workers’ compensation, state employee pension benefits, a statewide property tax freeze and local government consolidation.

The Chicago Democrat has complained for two years that Rauner is not “reasonable” in seeking discussions of “nonbudget” items in talks over a fiscal plan. But this week, he staked out his own. They include Rauner’s promise to sign a school funding overhaul that won wide legislative majorities, requiring state regulation of rates by companies selling workers’ comp insurance, and mandating an open procurement process for a $9 billion contract the Rauner administration plans to sign for managed-care health coverage.

Madigan said he is negotiating on Rauner’s demands in an effort to compromise.

“I don’t see that I’m being unreasonable,” Madigan said. “I’m here. I’m proposing to vote on things I don’t believe in. ... But in the spirit of compromise, I’m prepared to vote” for those measures.

Radogno’s exit sets off a succession scramble which includes Deputy Republican Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington, the unsuccessful GOP candidate for governor in 2014.

A social worker, the 64-year-old Radogno was elected to the Senate in 1996. She and Cullerton assumed their leadership positions on the same day in 2009. Cullerton called their tenure “nine years of cooperation and professionalism.”

Rauner called her a “consummate professional” who “championed fiscal discipline and human services.” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said “Chris always stayed above the fray in this very partisan environment.”

Madigan, a legislator since 1971, applauded Radogno’s hard work, honesty, integrity, and forthrightness and concluded his praise with an apparent shot at Rauner.

“The genius of the legislative process lies in the ability to compromise,” Madigan said. “Chris Radogno understood that.”

___

Contact Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/john%20o’connor


          Hillary Clinton Sick with Pneumonia   

Hillary Clinton Sick with Pneumonia Mrs. Clinton has cancelled her trip to California for a series of fundraisers on Monday and Tuesday. Hillary Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia Friday, her doctor said in a statement Sunday after the Democratic nominee left the 9/11 Remembrance Memorial ceremony at Ground Zero due to what her campaign said […]

The post Hillary Clinton Sick with Pneumonia appeared first on Live Trading News.


          Donald Trump Suspends Campaign, Attends 9/11 Remembrance   

Donald Trump Suspends Campaign, Attends 9/11 Remembrance Donald Trump is visiting the 9/11 Remembrance Memorial Sunday to mark the 15th anni of the radical Islamic terror attacks. The Republican nominee also visited a nearby Firehouse after his stop at Ground Zero Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton announced she will visit Ground Zero for the annual moment […]

The post Donald Trump Suspends Campaign, Attends 9/11 Remembrance appeared first on Live Trading News.


          A list of five B.C. New Democrats with cabinet potential   
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          Some states reject “voter fraud” commission's request for voter data   
Several Democratic state officials said Friday they will not comply with requests for information about voters

          After Two Years Without A Budget, Debt And Pain Are Mounting In Illinois   

After nearly two years without a budget, the state of Illinois and those who depend on it may be running out of time. Lawmakers are scrambling to approve a new budget before a midnight deadline on Friday but an agreement between Republicans, led by Gov. Bruce Rauner, and the Democratic leaders in the legislature appears distant.


          POETA ÓSCAR SAAVEDRA: "ESCRIBIR ES MIRAR AL SOL DE FRENTE".   
(más de 20 escritores se dieron cita en el Encuentro de Poesía "Teófilo Cid", realizado en Ciudad Sur los días 6 y 7 de diciembre)

Óscar Saavedra Villarroel (Santiago, 1977), que estuvo en el reciente encuentro de poetas “Teófilo Cid” gestionado por Christian Martínez en el Instituto Profesional de Chile, es una de las voces más autorizadas de su generación. A pesar de haber publicado un solo libro –Tecnopacha” (Editorial Zignos, Perú, 2008)–, Saavedra, tanto por su proyecto “Descentralización Poética” como por las decenas de talleres literarios que ha gestado en múltiples niveles, ha atisbado una suerte de revolución literaria sustentada en la democratización de la escritura.



Háblame de tus estudios formales

Estudié en varias escuelas y en el Liceo Manuel Barros Borgoño de Santiago. Pasé por varias carreras, pero finalmente me licencié en Educación. Soy un profesor que siempre ha ejercido una educación alternativa, no acorde con los planes y programas. Todo en la educación formal nos prepara para la sociedad de consumo, con profesores que repiten y repiten y con directores que son auténticos tiranos. Lo primero que hace un niño al conocer sus instituciones, a través de lo que llaman constructivismo, es ir a los supermercados, saber que existen los malls y luego su espacio, su mundo. Todo está disfrazado, apuntaron a destruir la memoria y lo han conseguido. Entonces, no bastan los discursos, que están quebrados; se requieren acciones.

¿Algún posgrado?

La escritura y mis talleres –en estos momentos realizo nueve– son un posgrado superior. Ahí se produce la combustión misma de la creatividad. Estudiar algo que no es mejor que mi biblioteca, la acción o las personas, no tiene sentido. Hay que tener cuidado con las instituciones, muchas veces te quiebran el cielo. Otras veces, te seducen al punto de hacerte desaparecer como persona creativa.

¿Cómo definirías tu poesía?

Es una poesía que muchas veces se borra para salir a caminar por las calles y los acontecimientos, como narrando a través de una “ficcio-realidad” o dialogando con la crónica; un escritor debe escribir su tiempo. Algunos de mis temas: la transculturización, el sistema, el capitalismo, los talentos quebrados de las poblaciones, el quiebre del lenguaje (al chileno lo defino como un lenguaje con pasamontañas). He dejado que niños y jóvenes intervengan mi poesía, para salirme del individualismo que a algunos empresarios de la palabra parece haber ahogado ¿Para qué más supermercados del lenguaje, si hay lenguajes fresquitos en casi todas las esquinas?

¿Cuál es la verdadera función que tiene la literatura, además del goce estético y de la posibilidad de difundir conocimiento?

Escribir su historia, no dejar que la memoria se venda. Ahí debiera estar la escritura, dando la batalla, como un poema lleno de fotos indelebles. El lenguaje es política en sí mismo, es cosa de ver cómo lo mal emplea el utilitarismo. Una de las cosas que ha hecho este sistema, de manera casi inteligente, es quitarnos la lucidez y llevarnos a un individualismo que ha sometido al escritor a creerse la punta de tope de un iceberg que se desmorona. Estrategias del neoliberalismo que uno debe descubrir y combatir. Creo en el escritor como un actor social. Escribir es leer y leer es escribir. La escritura nace de la valentía, de mirar al sol de frente.

¿Qué experiencias –y a qué niveles– has tenido en la enseñanza de la poesía?

He compartido poesía a través de talleres en muchos lugares de Santiago y también de regiones y a todas las edades. Es impresionante lo que te puede entregar un taller literario. Los niños me tienen todo el rato pensando, debo tener respuestas para todo, en cualquier momento debo cumplir con lo que digo y ser creativo; o si no, viene el desplome. ¿Qué es mejor, estar ahí con ellos o haciendo una carrera literaria en donde la competencia y la velocidad te hacen desaparecer? Opto por lo primero, son muchos soles, muchas tormentas mentales, mucha vida por delante. Estoy haciendo un libro para la enseñanza de la poesía y, junto a dos destacados poetas, planificamos las “Escuelas de la Poesía”, un proyecto mayor. Algunos dicen: la poesía no se enseña. Yo creo que sí, que se puede enseñar

¿Qué me puedes decir de “Descentralización poética”?

Llevamos varios años generando movilidad literaria con encuentros en casi todo Chile y otros países, en universidades, colegios, poblaciones, centros culturales, ocupando casi todos los espacios geográficos e interviniendo la ciudad. Nuestra idea es volver a encantar a las personas con un patrimonio espiritual que les pertenece y que el sistema –las academias y el sentido elitista de la literatura– les ha enajenado. El 2013 haremos un “Descentralización” en muchos lugares a la vez, invitando a poetas latinoamericanos que a su vez darán talleres en poblaciones. Daremos un golpe a la institucionalidad, diremos que la poesía está viva y las personas le han dado respiración a la palabra.

          Parlamento alemão aprova legalização do casamento homossexual   
A legalização do casamento homossexual foi aprovada na Alemanha. Com 393 votos favoráveis, 226 contrários e 4 abstenções, o parlamento do país aprovou, nesta sexta-feira (30/6), um projeto liderado pelos social-democratas. Casamento gay foi aprovado no parlamento alemão com 393 votos favoráv...
          BEST OF THE WEB: New York Times retracts Russia-gate canard...finally!   
Exclusive: A founding Russia-gate myth is that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that Russia hacked into and distributed Democratic emails, a falsehood that The New York Times has belatedly retracted, reports Robert Parry. The New York Times has finally admitted that one of the favorite Russia-gate canards - that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred on the assessment of Russian hacking of Democratic emails - is false. On Thursday, the Times appended a correction to a June 25 article that had repeated the false claim, which has been used by Democrats and the mainstream media for months to brush aside any doubts about the foundation of the Russia-gate scandal and portray President Trump as delusional for doubting what all 17 intelligence agencies supposedly knew to be true. In the Times' White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for "still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected." However, on Thursday, the Times - while leaving most of Haberman's ridicule of Trump in place - noted in a correction that the relevant intelligence "assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community."
          House may stall Senate's Russia sanctions bill even after technical issue resolved   
New sanctions drawn up against Russia in the US Senate are no longer snagged by a technical matter, but the bill may still be in limbo, as it faces opposition in the House of Representatives. On Thursday, the Senate fixed what's known as a "blue slip" violation in its bill to lay further sanctions on Russia. At issue was the constitutional requirement that revenue bills must originate in the House. Democrats are accusing Republicans of stalling the sanctions in an attempt to please President Donald Trump after his administration officials raised concerns with the bill, according to Reuters. Republicans in the House say that their reluctance to push the bill forward is purely procedural, Reuters reported.
          Deutsche Bank refuses Democrats' demand to reveal Trump's financial details   
Germany's biggest bank has rejected a request by US House Democrats to provide details of President Donald Trump's finances. Deutsche Bank is citing privacy laws. The bank provided multimillion dollar loans to Trump's real-estate business before his political career. "We respectfully disagree with the suggestion that Deutsche Bank freely may reveal confidential financial information in response to requests from individual members of Congress," Deutsche's counsel said in a letter seen by Reuters.
          SHIPPING: Dems push for more spending on harbors   
Democrats filed legislation in both chambers yesterday to force the government into spending more money from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
          Why Does the U.S. Hate Iran? Think Oil and Strategic Power   

Truthdig, June 23, 2016 Why, a correspondent recently asked me, is there so much animosity between the United States and Iran? On Iran’s side, it goes back to 1953, when the U.S. engineered a coup against the secular and democratically elected Iranian government of Mohammad Mossadegh. After the coup, there followed a quarter-century of dictatorial [...]

The post Why Does the U.S. Hate Iran? Think Oil and Strategic Power appeared first on Paul Street.


          Manlleu recorda les primeres eleccions democràtiques de 1977 amb una obra de teatre al Museu del Ter   


És la nova proposta teatral d'estiu del Museu i la companyia CorCia



Aquest juny fa exactament 40 anys de les primeres eleccions democràtiques a l'estat espanyol, després de la mort de Franco. Manlleu recordarà aquesta època de la transició amb l'espectacle 1977. Aquesta és la nova proposta teatral d'estiu que organitzen conjuntament el Museu del Ter i la companyia CorCia des del 2008. L'obra se submergeix en aquest moment històric per explorar les tensions i contradiccions que viuen quatre personatges amb diferents posicionaments i visions dels canvis polítics i socials.

Segons un dels directors, Joan Roura, han explicat la història "a través d'una família, un pare i una filla" i "dos personatges més que són com dues finestres que s'obren" per als protagonistes, provocant-los "esperança i amenaça". En aquest sentit, l'altra directora, Anna Presegué, ha remarcat que mitjançant "les històries personals, parlem de tot el context". A més, el fet que només hagin passat 40 anys "és interessant perquè és un moment que encara molta gent se'l pot sentir seu".

Per la seva banda, el director del Museu, Carles Garcia, ha explicat que l'obra es concentra en dos dies: les primeres eleccions democràtiques del 15 de juny de 1977, i 10 dies després: el 25 de juny. Precisament aquest dia va dimitir el darrer alcalde franquista de Manlleu, després de la pressió popular.

Cada espectacle, una recerca

El director del Museu del Ter ha remarcat que "cada espectacle implica una recerca". Precisament per fer 1977 han parlat amb gent que va viure aquesta època com polítics, capellans, activistes, sindicalistes i periodistes de Manlleu. A més, per saber exactament els cartells que hi havia a la capital de Ter també es va recórrer a l'arxiu fotogràfic de Carles Molist.

L'espectacle 1977 és la sisena obra conjunta del Museu del Ter i CorCia Teatre. Des del 2008 han programat diferents espectacles durant els mesos d'estiu com Torn de nit. Crònica negra, Ànimes de Batan, El Meu Barri, L'Aiguat i Bates Blaves. A mesura que ha passat els anys, més d'un miler de persones han passat per alguns dels passis de cada obra. Per exemple, l'any passat, un total de 1.426 persones van passar per les 25 representacions de Bates Blaves. Garcia ha apuntat que és un gran repte per la bona fluència que van tenir l'any passat.

L'espectacle que s'estrena aquest divendres 30 de juny està dirigit per Joan Roura i Anna Presegué, i el repartiment està format per Jordi Arqués, Anna Busanya, Marta Parramón i Joan Roura. A més, també hi ha treballat personal tècnic del Museu del Ter. Les funcions seran divendres i dissabtes des del 30 juny al 12 d'agost a les 9 del vespre.

Publicat per
Presentació de «1977», la nova proposta teatral de CorCia Teatre i el Museu del Ter | Adrià Costa
Carles Fiter, Manlleu | 26/06/2017


          Comment on Moderates by forwhatimustwrite   
I'd say in order for moderates to effectively compete in the political arena, they'd have to do a handful of things. 1) set up a moderate political union. 2) host a moderate political convention, and 3) work to set up a moderate political party and host a convention every election year like the Republican and Democratic Party does. You see the conservatives have both a political union and political convention but the liberals do not and that's one of the many reasons the conservatives have been so successful at defeating the conservatives. The liberals really are weak and they've done nothing to stand up against the conservatives. If use moderates could stand up to both the liberals and conservatives then we could all really succeed in the political arena.
          Comment on An Open Letter to Moderates by Ron P   
Dave, "If Trump can manage to pull growth off the 2% peg its has been on for 2 decades – republicans will do well in 2018. If he can not then republicans should not do well." First, I think this administration is showing that the President does not have much influence in Washington when the party is not aligned with the presidents agenda. And I suspect that future GOP presidents will have the same problem as Trump given the fact the Democrats are of two mind sets, liberal and socialist, while the GOP is a multi headed monster where they are unable to come to "compromises" within the party to get anything done. Where the Democrats are all aligned like ducks crossing the street, the GOP is like a group of chickens scattering every which way possible when anything comes up. (Worse than herding cats!) As for your comments about economic growth, one thing that is mentioned occasionally, but not by the conservative mouth pieces, since they want growth as their talking points, is the changing demographics in the country. 1. The baby boomers that fired up this economy for decades are aging, they are no longer buying big ticket items, they are downsizing and their money is now going to leisure and healthcare. 2. The housing boom of the 90's will most likely never be seen again like it had been. Why? The cost of new housing. And much of that is due to land cost. Where land could be purchased for a few thousand per acre when housing boomed and houses could be put on postage sized lots, land now cost up to, and sometimes over 6 figures per acre. Then add to it the growing regulations where communities require lots to be of a certain size, and the land alone has added thousands to a cost of housing construction. 3. The millennials, the next largest demographic group are now starting families and they are now finding they have to pay for things themselves. They no longer are living with mommy and find that what she paid for the past few years is really expensive. They also are finding they have to pay off high student debt that resulted in a somewhat do nothing degree so, due to these reasons and some others, they do not have the money for big ticket items. 4. The millennials also do not want to start out small like their parents did in housing. They grew up in large homes with spacious yards and that is what they want. So the small starter homes are not being built, this generation is living in rental property and that also reduces large ticket purchases, like appliances. 5. The growth in the Hispanic population. One of the fastest growing demographics is the Hispanic population. It will take some time for this group to achieve the standard of living that middle class America enjoys for a number of reasons.. They do not have the money to spend on large items, but their money goes to basic needs. 6. And my last comment, the changing job markets. Over the long run, it is estimated that 40% of all jobs by 2050 (just 30 years from now) will be gone and taken over by robots. Cabbies, Uber drivers, truck drivers, railroad employees, restaurant workers, most warehouse workers and most all manufacturing left in America will be done by robots. This leaves healthcare and service workers, like plumbers, electricians, etc as the major employers in America. (They say technology will drive jobs, but I believe all of those will be overseas and not in America). So as we move toward this 40% reduction which is happening now, people will experience a down turn in income also impacting economic growth. I think 1-2% is the new normal.
          Comment on An Open Letter to Moderates by dhlii   
Separately as things stand I do not think that Republicans can manage legislation. The Health care mess at the moment demonstrates that their margins are too small to accomplish anything that is actually needed and half measures are worse than nothing. I would love to see tax reform - but we need REAL tax reform, not twidlling at the edges. There is not likely to be a second bite at tax reform for another decade. Right now there better off doing small things that are possible. There is a long list of small measures that are not likely to be viewed as controversial enough that Republicans can not pass them on their own that would increase the ability to reign in the administrative state. There are some that might get democratic support. There is substantial talk among democrats all of a sudden regarding "federalism" - returning powers of the federal government back to states. If Trump can manage to pull growth off the 2% peg its has been on for 2 decades - republicans will do well in 2018. If he can not then republicans should not do well. Tax reform would help alot but there is a catch-22 to get the political will to do tax reform properly - republicans need to succeed and build credibility. They should repeal PPACA or atleast bring a straight repeal to a vote in the house and senate. That is what the promised. They never should have promised more. Talk of further reform can happen AFTER that. I would also note I am less afraid of Trump as the head of the executive acting unilaterally within the constraints and powers of the executive. I am not too happy with him as the leader of the GOP pushing legislation. With respect to Congress he seems more interested in scoring points - passing something, than in passing what is needed. Think about that as you think about how much you value compromise. With few exceptions as an administrator Trump seems to be "doing the right thing". He has put mostly good people in place. He sometimes buts heads with them, but ultimately he appears to have vetted them well and is leaving them to do their job their way. Regardless, there is alot he can accomplish. Right now the economy is improving - or appears to be. Given that I have heard a years worth of predictions of coming recession, that is pretty amazing.
          $36.5 billion spending plan for Illinois   
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — House Speaker Michael Madigan says he will call a $36.5 billion spending plan for a vote Friday while Democrats and Republicans continue to negotiate tangential issues crucial to a state budget deal with
          The Journey (2016)   

Watch The Journey 2016 Full Movie Free Online. A fictional account of the extraordinary story of two implacable enemies in Northern Ireland – firebrand Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness – who are forced to take a short journey together in which they will take the biggest leap of […]

The post The Journey (2016) appeared first on Iwannawatch.is.


          Wendy Davis Supports Open Carry Law   
Democratic candidate for governor says she supports proposed law that would allow Texans to wear guns in public.
          Senator By Day, Telemarketer By Night   
This is the first story in a Planet Money series on money in politics. We'll have more this afternoon on All Things Considered , and this weekend on This American Life . We think of lawmakers having one job: making laws. But there's a second job most lawmakers have to do. And it's a big job. "I think most Americans would be shocked — not surprised, but shocked — if they knew how much time a United States senator spends raising money," says Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. "And how much time we spend talking about raising money, and thinking about raising money, and planning to raise money." And this second job — the raising-money job — doesn't happen in the nice congressional offices, with the rugs on the floor and landscape paintings on the wall. That would be against the rules. So senators and congressmen go across the street to private rooms in nongovernmental buildings, where they make call after call, asking people for money. In other words, most of our lawmakers are moonlighting as
          The National Debt: What The Left And Right Agree On   
The congressional supercommittee announced Monday that it failed to come to an agreement on reducing the deficit. After three months of negotiating, the Democrats and Republicans just couldn't agree on how much spending to cut or how high to raise taxes. But this is not a story about how the left and right disagree with each other. In fact, they actually largely agree. Alison Fraser , director of economic policy studies at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, says this: We are on the wave, of the leading edge of 78 million baby boomers retiring into entitlement programs. So going forward, spending in the future is unsustainable. Bob Greenstein , president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says this: Over the course of a few decades, the debt would rise to over 100% and then over 200% of GDP and then keep rising. That's not sustainable. Everyone agrees that our nation is pretty deep in debt — about $10 trillion in debt. And they agree that within a decade or
          Shutdown sit-down: Christie invites top Democrats to meet   
Gov. Chris Christie has invited top Democrats to his office for a meeting on the budget impasse, with just hours before a possible state government shutdown. Continue reading…
          NYT Finally Retracts Russia-gate Canard   
Exclusive: A founding Russia-gate myth is that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies agreed that Russia hacked into and distributed Democratic emails, a falsehood that The New York Times has belatedly retracted, reports Robert Parry. By Robert Parry The New York…Read more →
          UPDATED: Metro Councilman Dan Johnson Leaving Democratic Caucus   

Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson says he’s leaving the council’s Democratic caucus but intends to finish his term in office.


          Horizon Showdown Grinds NJ Government to a Halt   

A showdown between Democrats in the state Legislature prevented Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto from being able to pass a state budget on Thursday and brought New Jersey one step closer to a government shutdown. Democrats had agreed to a $34.7 billion spending plan for fiscal 2018.


          Burma: Drop Charges Against 3 Journalists   

A reporter looks at an article about the three detained journalists in the Democratic Voice of Burma newsroom in Rangoon, Burma, June 29, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

(Bangkok) – Burmese authorities should immediately drop charges against three journalists for news gathering at a public event organized by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in northern Shan State, Human Rights Watch said today.

On June 26, 2017, the Burmese military detained Aye Nai and Pyae Phone Naing from the Democratic Voice of Burma and Thein Zaw, also known as Lawi Weng, from The Irrawaddy after stopping their car as they returned from a TNLA drug-burning ceremony marking the United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. On June 28, the reporters were charged under section 17(1) of Burma’s colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act of 1908, local media reported. All three have been detained at Hsipaw prison in Shan State and are next scheduled to appear in court on July 11.

It’s appalling that the Burmese authorities are charging journalists for simply doing their job.

Phil Robertson

Deputy Asia Director

“It’s appalling that the Burmese authorities are charging journalists for simply doing their job,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Burma’s government, which consists of many former political prisoners held on similarly dubious grounds, should drop these charges immediately and ensure the three are released.”

During the nearly three days the military held the journalists without charge, their location was unknown. Four other people were reportedly also arrested and detained.

Section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act carries a sentence of up to three years in prison for anyone who “is a member of an unlawful association, or takes part in meetings of any such association, or contributes or receives or solicits any contribution for the purpose of any such association, or in any way assists the operations of any such association.” This broadly worded provision has been routinely used for decades to punish people suspected of having any contact with an opposition armed group.

Ta’ang National Liberation Army soldiers burn an opium field in northern Shan State, January 16, 2014.

© 2014 Reuters

The TNLA is among more than a dozen ethnic minority armed groups that for decades have been fighting Burma’s central government, and has been designated an “unlawful armed group” by the Burmese authorities. While the TNLA is not a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed in October 2015, representatives of the armed group attended the second round of the Panglong Peace Conference held by the Burmese government in the capital, Naypyidaw, in May 2017.

Arresting journalists who are gathering news about an armed group is a serious blow to media freedom in Burma. While the government may place restrictions on the media for national security reasons, these restrictions must be strictly necessary for a legitimate purpose and not be overbroad. They may not be used to suppress or withhold information of legitimate public interest not harmful to national security, or to prosecute journalists for reporting such information.

For the government to fulfill this responsibility, journalists must be able to speak and meet with a variety of people without fear of arrest or harassment – including those who are in conflict with the government or military.

The arrest of the three journalists appears to conflict with Burma’s News Media Law. Section 7(a) of the law, in force since June 2015, states that a journalist “shall be exempt from being detained by a certain security related authority, or his/her equipment being confiscated or destroyed,” while gathering news in areas “where wars break out, and where conflicts or riots and demonstrations take place.”

“The Burmese military is using the Unlawful Associations Act to attack the country’s news providers,” Robertson said. “All charges under section 17(1) should be dropped and the provision rescinded so that journalists can accurately cover the country’s ethnic conflicts.”


          NDC Will Comeback To Power In 2020 - B/A NDC Youth Organiser   
The Brong Ahafo Regional Youth Organizer of the National Democratic Congress,Mr Mohammed Seidu, better known as Maha, has stated that NDC will definitely bounce back to power in 2020 because Ghanaians has lost hope in the governing New Patriotic Party(NPP). quot;Ghanaians had lost hope in the government rsquo;s ability to live up to the ...
          GII, CDD and GACC Calls for Probe into NLA Bribery Allegation   
The Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) together with the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) are demanding for a full scale independent investigation into the GHc150,000 bribery allegation involving the National Lotteries Authorities (NLA) and of members of the Parliamentary Committee on F ...
          Woyome Stops Oral Examination   
The Supreme Court has set July 4 to rule on an application filed by National Democratic Congress (NDC) businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, seeking to temporarily halt his oral examination by the Attorney General over the GH 51.2 million supposed judgement debt paid to him by the state. The court, presided over by sole judge, Justice A.A. Benin, i ...
          College Costs In The US And A History Of Student Loan Debt   
The promise of free college education helped propel Bernie Sanders’ 2016 bid for the Democratic nomination to national prominence. It reverberated during the confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and Sanders continues to push the issue.
          Inside Mae Beavers: A Parody Arises   
Your PeskyFly was considering a soft-core parody of Tennessee's puritanical, porn-busting gubernatorial candidate Sen. Mae Beavers. The premise: Me and May would destroy millions of innocent young lives with passionate acts of slippery abandon. Awesome so far, right? Catch was, I couldn't come up with the right title. Should it be Around the World with Mae Beavers? 69 Things I Know About Mae Beavers? Strangers in a Strange Beaver? Butt Slammers Vol. 4? So many choices, none of them quite right.

Like they say, when you snooze you lose. While I was dithering, some industrious person was busy crafting a Mae Beavers parody that's so much better than anything I might have come up with because, presumably, this call's coming from inside "the House."

The entire text, typos and all, as originally shared by the Nashville Scene.

How to be The Ultraconservative Candidate
Nothing is more important when running for office in Tennessee than getting the conservative vote – and it is the ultraconservative who will probably win the election. So how can you appear to be the ultraconservative candidate?

Preeminence: Make yourself the preeminent conservative in the state. Remember, it is a competition, and by passive aggressively one-upping all other politicians, you can appear to be really nice but in reality, you are crushing the reputations and political futures of potential opponents. Which is good to do because self-centered, attention-grabbing is a useful skill to ensure your future political success.

Secure your superiority through negative contrasting; unnecessarily make comparisons that negatively contrast other elected officials with you. This will present you in the most positive light. Should an official try to claim that they are conservative, what they are really doing is claiming to be more conservative than you. Put an end to this by calling them a RINO, and inferring that they secretly support an income tax.

The key to being the preeminent conservative is control. Control is the glue that holds conservatives who lack critical thinking skills together. It is also a passive aggressive technique you can use against other Republicans; it is really the best way to ensure that you receive the constant attention and admiration from the public that you deserve.

Remember, being in office for 25 years doesn’t mean you are an establishment politician as long as you always call other conservatives who have been in office for a shorter amount of time than you establishment politicians. This helps you assert your dominance in the lives of everyone around you, and dominance helps to improve your life. If anyone doubts you, simply recite your impossible dogmatic standards or your rabid deep-seated feelings of victimization.

Public Speeches: Supplying detail in your public speeches is bad, and may cause you to have to answer actual questions; so speak in vague generalities and platitudes at all times. People will read between the lines and respond with total adoration and obedience. If political insecurities necessitate wild claims about ISIS infiltration or constituents – sweep the room for mics first.

Be sure to call all other Republicans RINOs, that way these officials will learn that they have done something wrong, and because you should be speaking in vague generalities, people will just assume you are the only real conservative without any way to actually measure. They will also believe that all other legislators are simply RINOs at the core of their being.

Further, each time you make negative accusations about the legislature, it is encouragement for them to be more conservative.

Statesmanship: Emphasizing your own statesmanship through snarky comments has the added benefit of shaming other legislators – communicating your own statesmanship through misdirected shame is a direct way to communicate that you are preeminent, and don’t forget – they deserve it.

Legislation: Be legislatively savvy. File bills that appear so conservative that they are actually unconstitutional. Then issue a press release that takes advantage of the blind support of people who don’t know the difference. Insist on running these bills in committee; when the Attorney General opines that the bill is constitutionally suspect this is your big chance to issue a second press release that labels the AG and your Republican colleagues as RINOs – which makes you appear to be the only real conservative in the legislature.

Paint your record as something completely different than what it is. Your oath to uphold the Constitution should never get in the way of your own narcissistic desire for preeminence. Only a true freedom fighter would file an unconstitutional bill, and your refusal to fix your bill by making it constitutional can easily be justified by a plain folks’ appeal that encompasses name calling and proper over simplification of the actual legal issues.

Never let anyone else’s conservative efforts be good enough for you. Remember, if another legislator asks for your support for their ultraconservative idea, they’re not trying to be friendly, they are trying to overthrow your tyrannical reign of control and dominance. You can’t let that happen. You’ll want to play the trump card of filing a nearly identical bill, except, make it a little more outrageous. Then issue a press release containing a directly indirect passive aggressive message that the first legislator has stolen your work. This clearly puts you back in the driver’s seat.

This technique works for dead ultraconservative bills too. If another legislator’s ultraconservative measure died because it came smack dab up against legal realities, you can steal that bill next year and announce to the world that because that legislator was such a RINO and pathetically decided not to get the job done, you will justly assume your natural position of conservative preeminence. When you come up against the same issues as the prior legislator, you can thoroughly enjoy the renewed sense of purpose that floods into your life while you sit on top of your moral high ground calling the committee members who can’t vote for your unconstitutional bill RINO's.

Budget: Take advantage of the fact that the state budget is so large that no one can possibly know off hand all that it contains. This fact alone creates a lot of suspicion and skepticism among ultraconservatives. In this way, year after year, you can receive statewide attention for being the lone conservative vote against the budget. When media ask why you voted no, supply a simplistic platitude, “There is too much pork in that budget”, an explanation so simple that even a democrat can understand. Pork works because people identify pork with fat, and fat makes people think of indulgence and waste.

Supreme Court: Ignoring Supreme Court cases that have already been decided is another good way to lock down your support from a statewide ultraconservative base while at the same time unmistakably signal your disrespect for the judiciary.

Security: You are entitled to your feelings of needing special treatment, and requiring security makes you appear important enough to protect. But what if no one has actually threatened your life? No problem – your paranoia can assist you in just making something up. Also, by pleading, a wealthy conservative businessman is likely to pay for you to have the constant presence of security whenever you are out in public – this has the added benefit of making you look really important and worthy of protection.

Look the Part: Drive a conservative vehicle. It may be tempting to develop a Lexus nexus with other candidates but that’s really sketchy and y’all in Tennessee … a pickup truck is your best bet.

The Constitution: If you’ve gotten this far, understanding constitutional facts isn’t necessary for you so don’t spend any time on this subject. You’ll want to spend most of your time creating new unconstitutional bills that appear ultraconservative but in reality, will rigidly control people’s lives or help them to realize that they are going to spend eternity in hell.
Since being an ultraconservative is a political philosophy that doesn’t have an actual platform or rule book, you don’t need to know what constitutes an ultraconservative and neither does anybody else. This also means that you have zero knowledge of what may or may not be constitutional in your ultraconservative sense. But don’t worry about that, to fill this small little loop-hole, you only need to publicly preach with conviction that any views you hold are truly ultraconservative, and if anyone else who may actually know something about the constitution raises the specter that you are incorrect, it will be crystal clear that they are actually a RINO and you can call them out on that fact.

These suggestions are a really good start towards your goal of ultraconservative preeminence. Good luck with your political future. 

Hot.


          Last Weekend's NAACP Centennial Celebration Looked Back — and Forward   


As Memphis prepares for a 4th of July weekend, members and guests of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP are still savoring some moments last weekend from the organization’s centennial anniversary luncheon — particularly from keynoters Melissa Harris-Perry, former MSNBC host and Wake Forest professor, and Harold Ford Jr., the onetime Memphis congressman who now works on Wall Street and keeps his hand in politically, also on MSNBC.

There were notable things happening before keynoters Harris-Perry and Ford took their star turns, of course. Local NAACP president Deidre Malone and MC Mearl Purvis kept things moving from the dais, and a series of local dignitaries, including Ford’s successor, current 9th District congressman Steve Cohen and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, had some trenchant things to say — Cohen about the perils of the Trump presidency, Strickland about the need to boost African Americans’ share of local business opportunities.

Arguably, though, the best crowd reaction early on was to remarks by longtime civil rights activist Jocelyn Wurzburg, who (along with Shannon Brown and Roquita Coleman-Williams) was one of three official co-chairs for the event, held at the East Memphis Hilton last Saturday and devoted to the theme “Reflecting on the Past, Remaining Focused on the Future: 100 Years of Civil Rights and Human Rights Advocacy.”

Wurzburg, recipient of numerous citations and the person for whom Tennessee Human Rights Commission's annual Civil Rights Legacy award was named, conflated two tales. The first was about being embarrassed in her early youth when her mother, without asking, signed her up as a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy; the second detailed her response, during a visit to New Orleans, when a resident of that city lamented Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s recent removal of Confederate memorials, including a statue of Robert E. Lee.

The New Orleans native insisted that Lee had been done an injustice, in that the Civil War, in which he led a Southern army, had not been done on behalf of slavery. Wurzburg countered that, “as a member of the Daughters of the Confederacy, I can assure you it was.”

Harris-Perry, utilizing her erstwhile media chops, would wow the NAACP audience with a deceptively stream-of-consciousness rendition, including flamboyant hand-and-arm gestures, of what was actually a tightly organized dramatic presentation, aptly illustrated by a series of slides.

And along with her mastery of the medium (two actually; that of television and that of the lecture hall) came several provocative messages. One was both powerful and original: Taking off from her declaration that America had elected a president who was both “a racist and a pussy-grabber,” she formulated a convincing argument that racial domination, in its various forms, had depended on a distinctly physical domination of black women.

Slavery, which had involved the calculated and merciless separation of children from their mothers, had continued “through us,” Harris-Perry declared. To maintain the current stratified social system, she suggested, “Black women have to give birth,” and thereby to yield up to others “not only the product of our labor but our labor….The people who run this joint are pussy-grabbers.” That, she said, was “the reality of our wombs.”

Noting the incidence of black domestic servants in her paternal ancestry visi-a-vis the fact that her mother’s side was white and relatively privileged, Harris-Perry identified strongly with the former and with the idea of building “from the bottom,” a moral that she said would apply both to the advancement of the NAACP and the redevelopment of a dilapidated Democratic Party. “You always have to start with the least of these, literally, Jesus said. If you start at the top, you will miss so much. If you start at the bottom, you will miss nothing.”

Harris-Perry was the proverbial Hard Act to Follow, but Ford, who came next and last, managed to do just fine.

Professing that he was “glad to be home,” the former 9th District Congressman (who came within an ace of winning a Senate seat as a Democrat in 2006) executed an artful segue from Harris-Perry. Elaborating on the theme of “the power of women,” he recalled the importance of women teachers in his early education, extolled the helpful role played by “women in this district” in the development of his political career, and did some verbal doting on his 4 ½-year-old daughter Georgia.

Ford then shifted to the subject of change and to what he saw as a geometrically increasing demand for it in the society of today, treating the abrupt shift by American voters to Obama in 2008 and, even more precipitously, to Trump in 2016 as a case in point. The silver lining was the fact, as he saw it, that yet another political shift in a wholly different direction could happen, and relatively quickly.

“People want change, and they want it now,” he said, noting the pell-mell transformations of public technology, like the ever-escalating rise in photography via cell phone. He recalled being told two years ago that, within five years from that point, “97 percent of all the pictures in the world” would have been taken.

Ford closed on a note of optimism: “We’ve got to be daring and not afraid of change.” He quoted Babe Ruth to the effect that “Yesterday’s home runs do not win tomorrow’s ball games.”



          June 29, 2017: Hour 1   
In hour one of Here & Now's June 29, 2017 full broadcast, lawmakers in Illinois are scrambling to hammer out a budget deal before the fiscal year ends Friday. Niala Boodhoo of the public radio program "The 21st" joins us with the latest on the crisis. Also, President Trump sent out two tweets Thursday morning, insulting the co-hosts of the MSNBC show "Morning Joe." We hear more about how the tweets reflect on the White House from NPR's David Folkenflik. And as part of the ongoing effort to defeat ISIS, the U.S. last month began arming Kurdish forces which operate as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces. Two scholars join us to take a closer look at the move, and what it might mean for the region's future.
          Why Google Wants to Help Law Enforcement Access Personal Data on the Internet   

The challenges of the digital age warrant an updated international legal framework for governments to access important data, Google’s top lawyer argues. Democratic governments and... Read More

The post Why Google Wants to Help Law Enforcement Access Personal Data on the Internet appeared first on The Daily Signal.


          Shark Tank Competitor 4 – Workjam   
Workjam President and CEO Steven Kramer envisions a new retail workforce of mobile, flexible associates who rely on open source systems to manage schedules and tasks in a crowd sourced, democratized paradigm. The cloud-based web and mobile solution allows self-management and provides open source calendars. It eliminates manual processes and adds better communication up and down hierarchy … Continue reading Shark Tank Competitor 4 – Workjam
          McConnell tries to scare his right flank by talking to the NYT   
I'm convinced this is just McConnell's threat to Republican hard liners that unless they got on board and drop their opposition to his version of TrumpCare, McConnell will cut a deal with Democrats to shore up ObamaCare.

I'm happy to be wrong. There are certainly a lot of ways the ACA could be improved. I just can't imagine this Congress doing any of those things.



          Roy Cooper Uses Same Obstructionist Playbook As Washington Democrats, But Taxpayers Win With Veto Override   
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          When Dems Help Big Pharma – The Zero Hour   

We spoke with International Business Times’ senior editor for investigations David Sirota about his reporting about corporate Democrats in Connecticut, most notably Governor Dan Malloy, helping the pharmaceutical industry jack up drug prices.

The post When Dems Help Big Pharma – The Zero Hour appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.


          German Parliament Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage – Merkel Votes Against It   

On Friday, Germany joined the modern world by legalizing same-sex marriage by way of a vote in Parliament, a vote which was not supported by the nation’s leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The vote was held on Friday in Parliament, a snap referendum hastily assembled once Merkel dropped her public opposition. Social Democrats, Greens, and

The post German Parliament Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage – Merkel Votes Against It appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.


          Key Democratic Fundraisers are Now Pushing the Republican Agenda   

The Democratic Party’s biggest Donors are hard at work lobbying for Republican policies. Ring of Fire’s Josh Gay discusses the defection in this video. Transcript of Above Video: Great news everyone! – Some of the biggest players for Democratic fundraising from the November 2016 campaign are back in Washington – working to make their voices

The post Key Democratic Fundraisers are Now Pushing the Republican Agenda appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.


          Fox News Host Offers Bizarre Defense Of GOP Healthcare Bill – “We’re All Going To Die Someday”   

Kennedy, the former MTV VJ who now serves as one of the co-hosts of Fox News’ The Five, offered a bizarre rebuttal to the attacks that Democrats have lobbed against the Republican healthcare plan: She says that claims of people dying from the legislation are overblown considering that “we’re all going to die someday” anyway.

The post Fox News Host Offers Bizarre Defense Of GOP Healthcare Bill – “We’re All Going To Die Someday” appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.


          Syrian US-backed forces seize last route into Raqqa   

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition told The Associated Press that the Syrian Democratic Forces are now in control of all high-speed routes into Raqqa from the south. The Kurdish-led fighters had been advancing from the city's east after they seized a major stronghold in May, and from the west and north.


          29 June 1887: Lena Wilwerding is born on this day   
June 29, 1887
Grand Prairie, Nobles County, Minnesota

Lena WILWERDING is born on this day, daughter of Canach, Luxembourg-born Nicholas WILWERDING (1833-1923) and Margaretha HAUER (1847-1934) who was born near Trier, Germany. The obituary of Nicholas WILWERDING published in Minnesota’s Nobles County Democrat newspaper of February 15, 1923 recaps the immigrant family’s history in the USA:
The funeral of Nick Wilwerding whose death was mentioned in the last week's issue of The Democrat, was held at the St. Adrian Church last Friday morning, the Rt. Rev. Fr. Otto Zachmann having charge of the service. Interment was made in St. Adrians Cemetery. The deceased was born on October 31, 1833, at Canach, Luxembourg, and came to this country when 21 years of age. In 1863 or 1864 he arrived in Scott County, MN and settled there on a farm. In 1867 he was united in marriage to Margietta Hauer. About the year 1885 they moved to Nobles County, settling on a farm in Grand Prairie Township. Five years ago they moved to Adrian. Thirteen children were born to this union, Elizabeth dying in infancy and Charles on October 8, 1921, at the age of 38 years. The surviving children are: Nicholas Wilwerding of Blaisdell ND., Kaytherina now Sister Hildergard of Tiffen, Ohio, William, Michael, Matthew and John all of Mooreton North Dakota; Augusta now Sister M. Ida, and Lena, now Sister M. Alma both of Rochester MN.; Mrs. Mike Krieps of Tako Saskatchewan, Canada, and Mary and Maggie at home. Also three grandchildren. The deceased was a faithful member of St. Adrian's Church and was honored and respected by all who knew him. All the children were present at the funeral with the exception of Mrs. Mike Krieps of Tako, Canada; Sister Hildegard of Tiffen, Ohio, and Nicholas of Blaisdell, North Dakota.

Three of the six daughters born in the Wilwerding-Hauer household opt to serve the Catholic Church as nuns: Catherina as Sister Hildegard; Augusta as Sister M. Ida; and Lena as Sister M. Alma.
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          Liberty Headlines: Bribery, and Water/Land Grabs   

Herewith, my two most recent news summaries from Liberty Headlines — Quin Media Ignore Liberals’ ‘Environmental Racism’ Hobbyhorse Because Perp is a Democrat Question: Since when does the national news media pay […]

The post Liberty Headlines: Bribery, and Water/Land Grabs appeared first on Quin Hillyer.


          6/30/2017: NEWS: Liberals’ call to action: ‘ Crank up the outrage’   

WASHINGTON Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to delay a vote on a GOP health care plan gives Democrats a big opportunity to seize the July 4 recess to dial up the pressure to kill the bill for good. Several outside liberal groups plan...
          I Disagree With Beth Mizell   

Yesterday, you may have seen a post with the video state Sen. Beth Mizell put out noting that if Louisiana’s Democrat governor and its Democrat state party chair insist on killing bills that would preserve monuments to the state’s history that are currently out of fashion, their efforts might bear bitter fruit at some point. […]

The post I Disagree With Beth Mizell appeared first on The Hayride.


          Mitch Landrieu Has Let Crime Get So Bad He Literally Can’t Keep The Lights On   

Mitch Landrieu is a very busy man. He is off telling other mayors how to be leaders, tearing down statues that evoke memories of a dark and racist era, and basking in the heaping praise of Democrats from around the country. There is a price to pay when you’re this busy: some of your responsibilities […]

The post Mitch Landrieu Has Let Crime Get So Bad He Literally Can’t Keep The Lights On appeared first on The Hayride.


          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRAT.CO.UK   
Auction Type: Bid, Auction End Time: 06/30/2017 07:00 AM (PDT), Price: $20, Number of Bids: 0, Domain Age: 0, Description: , Traffic: 0, Valuation: $0, IsAdult: false
          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRAT.COM   
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          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATICPARTIES.CO.UK   
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          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATICPARTIES.COM   
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          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATICPARTY.CO.UK   
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          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATICPARTY.COM   
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          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATPARTIES.CO.UK   
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          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATPARTIES.COM   
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          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATPARTY.CO.UK   
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          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATPARTY.COM   
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          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATS.CO.UK   
Auction Type: Bid, Auction End Time: 06/30/2017 07:00 AM (PDT), Price: $20, Number of Bids: 0, Domain Age: 0, Description: , Traffic: 0, Valuation: $0, IsAdult: false
          NATIONSTATEDEMOCRATS.COM   
Auction Type: Bid, Auction End Time: 06/30/2017 07:00 AM (PDT), Price: $20, Number of Bids: 0, Domain Age: 0, Description: , Traffic: 0, Valuation: $0, IsAdult: false
          Have the democrats noticed they haven't won an election since?   
[0] Question by puzzling on 06/30/17 8:37 AM Replies: 6 Views: 69
Tags: Technology, Snowflakes, Republicans, Politics, Liberals
Last Post by McGentrix on 06/30/17 1:24 PM
          Commission vacancies threaten Trump's energy 'dominance'   
WASHINGTON (AP) " And then there was one.The five-member commission that oversees natural gas pipelines and other energy projects is down to a single commissioner as one of the panel's two remaining members is stepping down.The departure Friday of Democrat Colette Honorable from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission leaves Acting Chairwoman Cheryl LaFleur as the panel's sole member. The vacancies further hobble the agency's ability to make decisions on pipeline projects and [...]
          Measure forces Congress to examine post-9/11 war powers role   
WASHINGTON (AP) " A stunning move this week by a House panel to force a debate on new presidential war powers revealed mounting frustration that Congress has for too long dodged one of its most important responsibilities: to decide whether to send American fighting forces into harm's way.The measure crafted by Rep. Barbara Lee of California, an anti-war Democrat and the only member of Congress to oppose the post-Sept. 11, 2001, authorization, demands a debate on new war powers to [...]
          Re: Sen. Cory Gardner's staff may have tried to "heat out" protesters   
^^^^Sorry about that post. Intended it to be on the "Proud Democrats" report which faked a story.
Posted by Jeff Eisen
          Nigeria: Okorocha Accepts to Receive Protesters At Government House   
[Guardian] Owerri -The Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha has accepted to receive the planned one million-man match to protest against what they described as undemocratic rule in the state.
          32 House Dems Sign Anti-Israel Letter from Pro-Hamas, pro-BDS Groups   

There are few surprises here. Just the inevitable descent of the Democrats into the fever swamps of hatred and extremism. 

According to the anti-Israel group behind the Congressional letter, “The effort to gather signatories to the letter was supported by a coalition of human rights organizations including U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, CODEPINK, Jewish Voice for Peace, and American Muslims for Palestine.”

American Muslims for Palestine has been linked to Hamas. Jewish Voice for Peace, which is neither Jewish nor peaceful, is a BDS group. This is what the Dems are mainstreaming.

32 Democrats in Congress signed on to a letter circulated by a group that even the ADL had described as having its "organizational roots in the now-defunct Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), an anti-Semitic group that served as the main propaganda arm for Hamas in the United States."

It won't surprise you to learn that Keith Ellison tops this list. Or that  Betty McCollum, Earl Blumenauer and Mark Pocan are also there. Pocan recently got caught sponsoring an anti-Israel forum. And is turning into a reliable anti-Israel hack on the Hill.

Then there's Hank Johnson, who called Jews terminates, Barbara Lee, James McGovern, Andre Carson, Anna Eshoo, John Conyers, Luis Gutierrez, Peter DeFazio, Marcy Kaptur, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Karen Bass, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Roy Khanna, Zoe Lofgren, Bobby Rush, Peter Welsh, David Price, Alan Lowenthal, Donald Beyer, Chellie Pingree, Salud Carbajal, Gwen S. Moore, Danny Davis, Jackie Speyer, Jared Huffman, Tulsi Gabbard and Pramiya Jayapal. 

So there's the usual Prog caucus gang. And a sizable heaping of Congressional Black Caucus people. Anyone with a leftover crush on Tulsi Gabbard as the one good Dem would do well to drop it. 

A particular note of disgrace here has been struck by Alan Lowenthal. The leftist won his last race by a limited margin. It remains to be seen what the voters will think of his role in this.


          Assembly Democrats denounce threats made after single-payer healthcare bill was sidelined   
Reported by L.A. Times 2 hours ago.
          Look at possible conflicts of interest in Trump team's OneWest Bank probes, 2 Democrats urge   
Reported by L.A. Times 2 hours ago.
          Howard Dean: Losing Four Special Elections Isn’t a ‘Bad Sign’ for Democrats   

The post Howard Dean: Losing Four Special Elections Isn’t a ‘Bad Sign’ for Democrats appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.


          Dozens of Dems Support Bill to Create Panel That Could Remove Trump From Office   

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.) has introduced a bill that would create a congressional oversight commission that could declare the president incapacitated, leading to his removal from office under the Constitution's 25th Amendment.

The post Dozens of Dems Support Bill to Create Panel That Could Remove Trump From Office appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.


          McAuliffe Defies Trump Voter Commission; His Attorney Led Soros-Funded Voter ID Challenges   

Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe was the first governor to defy requests for information from Donald Trump's voter commission, announcing that he refuses to turn over voter registration information from the state.

The post McAuliffe Defies Trump Voter Commission; His Attorney Led Soros-Funded Voter ID Challenges appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.


          Grand Duchess Supports Survivors of Wartime Sexual Assault   
All photos: Mukwege Foundation / Jeppe Schilder
Grand Duchess Maria Teresa visited Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday where she was among the guests for an exhibition by women who survived wartime sexual assault. The exhibition is organised together by Foundation of Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who specialises in the treatment of women who have been gang-raped or suffered other wartime sexual assault during the ongoing violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Fondation du Grand-Duc et de la Grand-Duchesse
The Grand Duchess used the occasion to announce the holding of an international symposium in Luxembourg for survivors of wartime sexuael violence on March 8, 2019. Wartime sexual violence is rape or other forms of sexual violence committed by combatants during armed conflict or war or military occupation often as spoils of war; not only but oftentimes in ethnic conflict. 
Dr. Denis Mukwege has dedicated his life to defending, supporting and assisting female survivors of rape. He spends 18 hours a day doing operations to repair the horrific physical damage caused by gang-rape. 
Each month the Panzi Hospital founded by Dr. Mukwege admits more than 400 patients and he is one of only a few doctors qualified to preform the delicate and complex surgeries required to repair vaginal tears and vaginal fistulas that result from these violent assaults. His hospital has provided over 4,000 free surgeries just to treat fistula. These circumstances have led to Dr. Mukwege becoming the world's leading expert on repairing the internal trauma caused by gang-rape and sexual assaults.
The Geneva exhibition is the result of a reflection process initiated by about twenty women who suffered sexual violence from 15 different countries. They met for the first time in Switzerland to initiate a movement in order to work for the fighting and long-term prevention of rape committed during armed conflicts. 
"It is through initiatives like this that women can strengthen their influence and visibility in the prevention of of violence. Together these women are a formidable force that will not be stopped", the Grand Duchess said.
The Grand Duchess has been a supporter of the cause and Dr. Denis Mukwege for a few years no having met him in both 2016 and earlier this year, among others.

          Andrew Cuomo Refuses Federal Data Request Related To Trump's "Voter Fraud Myth"   

Shortly after moving into the White House, President Trump promised a "major investigation into VOTER FRAUD" and vowed that any evidence of wrongdoing would be used to strengthen voting procedures.  The following tweets undoubtedly 'triggered' millions of liberals across the country as visions of 'racist' voter ID laws danced in their heads.

 

Then, just last month, that "major investigation" came in the form of an Executive Order entitled: "Presidential Executive Order on the Establishment of Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity."  The Commission was to be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and it's mission was defined as follows:

The Commission shall, consistent with applicable law, study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections.  The Commission shall be solely advisory and shall submit a report to the President that identifies the following:

 

(a)  those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that enhance the American people's confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections;

 

(b)  those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that undermine the American people's confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections; and

 

(c)  those vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.

 

And, since no one would possibly argue in favor of more voter fraud rather than less, you might assume this particular Executive Order enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support across the country...of course, you could think that, but you would be incredibly wrong.

Enter New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Apparently Mr. Cuomo is so certain that voter fraud is nothing more than a right-wing "myth" that's he unwilling to even comply with a data request to make sure.  We're sure he's just trying to save Vice President Pence from wasting his time.

 

Of course, Cuomo's position is somewhat curious in light of the fact that New York City's own Commissioner of the Board of Elections, Alan Schulkin (Democrat), was caught on a secret video by Project Veritas openly admitting that "there is a lot of voter fraud."  At one point, Schulkin even admits that campaign officials bus minorities from "poll site to poll site" so they can vote multiple times.

“He gave out ID cards, de Blasio. That’s in lieu of a driver’s license, but you can use it for anything.  But they didn’t vet people to see who they really are. Anybody can go in there and say, ‘I am Joe Smith, I want an ID card."

 

"It’s absurd. There is a lot of fraud. Not just voter fraud, all kinds of fraud . . . This is why I get more conservative as I get older.”

 

“Voters? Yeah, they should ask for your ID. I think there is a lot of voter fraud.  You know, I don’t think it’s too much to ask somebody to show some kind of an ID . . . You go into a building, you have to show them your ID."

 

“They bus people around to vote . . . They put them in a bus and go poll site to poll site.”  Asked which neighborhoods, Schulkin said, “I don’t want to say.”  When the undercover mentions black and Hispanic neighborhoods, Schulkin responded, “Yeah . . . and Chinese, too.”

 

Alas, we assume that video is also just a 'myth'...

Of course, New York wasn't the only snowflake state to opt out of Trump's voter fraud data request. Apparently California is also quite confident that all of their illegal immigrants are voting legally...or something like that.

 

As The Hill notes, a total of 5 states have refused to turn over any voter data whatsoever while another 9 have said they'll only hand over publicly available data.

As of Friday afternoon, officials in New York, California, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Virginia had said they would not turn over any of their voter data to the voter fraud commission.

 

Other officials in Connecticut, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, Utah, North Carolina, Indiana and Iowa said they would only turn over public information on voter rolls, but wouldn't share private information.

 

Wisconsin announced it would turn over public information but would charge the commission $12,500 to buy the voter roll data.

Of course, at the end of the day, you only really need to examine a couple of critical swing states to get a sense for how rampant voter fraud might be.  And, since we don't see Florida or Ohio on the lists above, we very much look forward to the data from those two states.


          LOS PUJOL, LAS CLOACAS, Y LA OPERACIÓN CATALUÑA.   
Rafael del Barco Carreras

Barcelona 30-6-2017. Los Pujol que iniciaron el mes de junio con JOSEP PUJOL en jet privado y navegando en superyate de 40 metros por FORMENTERA con los del BANCO DE SABADELL, a suponer dialogando sobre finanzas y blanqueo, acaban junio con la declaración de renta de MARTA FERRUSOLA con 'a devolver'. Y a medio mes JOSEP visita a su hermano en SOTO DEL REAL, y a OLEGUER le dan cancha en los medios subvencionados para que se explaye en la defensa propia y paterna pero sin explicar de dónde salen los 3.000 millones de euros del Santander, Bankia y varios inmuebles.

Un mes intenso para el Juez De la Mata agobiado por toda clase de falsedades y fantasías de unos y otros, pero que si en principio diera palos de ciego, ahora acierta por ejemplo citando a SÁNCHEZ CARRETÉ, que le dirá como a mí en la antesala del juicio por el Caso Hacienda de Barcelona, 2009-2010, que PUJOL era muy minucioso y perfeccionista en la DECLARACIÓN DE RENTA. Un asesor fiscal condenado dos veces, y al que le concedieron un indulto parcial para que no entrara a prisión.

Un mes que los PUJOL se revuelven y confunden con la fantástica OPERACIÓN CATALUÑA, creación del subvencionado profesionalismo independentista en que PRUEBAN los ataques al PROCÉS con declaraciones de individuos de uno y otro bando más propios de la estafa, el chalaneo, la mamandurria, o arquetipos de la VIL ESPAÑA Y CATALUÑA. Las cloacas madrileñas y catalanas a revosar de periodistas, políticos, banqueros, y vividores. Pero la verdad continúa en los Papeles de Andorra y Panamá.

Y un mes en que se descubre la punta del gran iceberg: EL MERCADO INMOBILIARIO DE BARCELONA, que más que un 'mercado' parece un 'mercadillo' a lo bestia, donde su confunden toda clase de estafadores y sinvergüenzas, y con Colau complicando en lugar de clarificar. El mundo OKUPA y los DESAHUCIOS, que le convirtieron en alcaldesa, muestra muchas más facetas y aristas que las que con tanto acierto ella DENUNCIABA.  


Noticias destacadas

LA VANGUARDIA

Plantón general a la comisión Operación Catalunya
La Vanguardia · 
A dos velas. Así se han quedado los portavoces de la comisión de Investigación sobre la Operación Catalunya del Parlament. Este martes estaban convocadas cinco comparecencias de las que no ha asistido ni una.
De los cinco, sólo cuatro de los comparencientes han manifestado su inasistencia: el jefe de gabinete de Mariano Rajoy, Jorge Moragas; el exembajador español en Andorra, Manuel Montobbio; y los policías Manuel Vázquez y Enrique García. Sólo José Luis Olivera, exjefe de la Unidad de Delincuencia Económica y Fiscal (UDEF) y director del Centro de Inteligencia contra el Terrorismo y el Crimen Organizado (CITCO), no ha avisado a la cámara catalana de su inasistencia.

EN GOOGLE

Noticias destacadas

La sociedad civil
cerca a
Puigdemont para
que anule el referéndum
Economía Digital ·
 Y MÁS EN EL EX OASIS CATALÁN

 CRÓNICA GLOBAL

Ada Colau tapa con Airbnb sus dos grandes déficits: vivienda y metro

Ignasi Jorro / Núria Vázquez

La alcaldesa de Barcelona y su equipo alimentan la guerra con la multinacional para ocultar el alza de los pisos y las huelgas del suburbano

Política María Jesús Cañizares

Mas presiona para reeditar la lista conjunta en plena crisis con ERC

La vieja guardia convergente se encomienda a la ANC a espaldas del PDeCAT, que descarta una nueva coalición, para sobrevivir electoralmente tras un referéndum en la cuerda floja

Política María Jesús Cañizares

Los alcaldes independentistas prometen desobediencia el 1-O

Preparan un acto en el que publicarán la declaración en la que se ponen al servicio del referéndum 

Política María Jesús Cañizares

El Govern escurre el bulto en la independencia fiscal

El Ejecutivo catalán endosa al Parlament la creación de la Hacienda autonómica para eludir el control

 EL TRIANGLE

Los centros de menores tutelados de la DGAIA, de nuevo, bajo sospecha 

Sitges se convierte en el refugio dorado para una banda sueca de narcos   

Mauricio Casals, imputado en el escándalo de Pérez Dolset 

JxSí y la CUP condicionan las subvenciones a la campaña del referéndum 

Los Pujol se defenderán publicando dos libros en una editorial 'amiga', revela 'El País' 
La familia Pujol Ferrusola extenderá su línea de defensa pública más allá de las puntuales entrevistas concedidas recientemente por Josep y Oleguer Pujol Ferrusola. En una de ellas, en RAC1, Oleguer dijo que a su padre, el ex-presidente Jordi Pujol, "le apetecería explicarse, pero ya no le toca hablar, tiene 87 años. Por eso yo y mi hermano hemos querido salir a explicarnos".

De aquí a un tiempo, según revela El País, se publicarán dos libros sobre la familia del ex-presidente de la Generalitat, uno de los cuales será una biografía sobre su padre, Florenci Pujol i Brugat, cuyo supuesto legado constituye la columna vertebral de la defensa del clan en los juzgados.

Marta Ferrusola, según esta información, pretende limpiar la imagen de la familia y ha hecho el encargo a un editor amigo de su hijo mayor, Bernardo Domínguez, el dueño de Malpaso. La otra obra se centrará en las historias de personas que se dedicaron al cambio de divisas, como el abuelo Florenci, explica el mismo diario citando varias fuentes.

 E-NOTICIES
La CUP amenaza con "reventar la legislatura" POLÍTICA

La CUP amenaza con "reventar la legislatura"


DOLÇA CATALUNYA

EN TV3 A LAS 8 h.


 EL PARLAMENT ANULA LOS JUICIOS FRANQUISTAS

 HUELGA DEL METRO PARA LA DIADA

EL REY EVITA HACER REFERENCIAS POLÍTICAS

PROTESTA DE LA CUP POR LA VISITA DEL REY A GIRONA



 
 TV3 INSISTE CON ADHESIONES EN ALEMANIA

La Gran Corrupción: MERKEL Y CATALUÑA

lagrancorrupcion.blogspot.com/2014/07/merkel-y-cataluna.html
19 jul. 2014 - Barcelona 19-07-2014. Los alemanes, sus políticos, intelectuales y empresarios, conocen la actual Cataluña a la perfección. La mayoría, o ...

La Gran Corrupción: MERKEL, GRECIA, O ESPAÑA Y CATALUÑA... Y ...

lagrancorrupcion.blogspot.com/2015/01/merkel-grecia-o-espana-y-cataluna.html
5 ene. 2015 - Me decía esta noche que las declaraciones de Merkel sobre Grecia, reproducidas en toda la Prensa nacional, tenían doble lectura. Para evitar ...

          Donald Trump lashes Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough   
US President Donald Trump has again ridiculed the intelligence, looks and temperament of a female television host in a vulgar Twitter attack, triggering a storm of protest from Republicans and Democrats alike. In a Thursday morning...
          German bishops criticize parliament's approval of gay marriage   

Berlin, Germany, Jun 30, 2017 / 12:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin expressed his regret Friday at the German parliament’s vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, saying it had abandoned the fundamental characteristics of marriage.

“The fathers of the (German) constitution gave marriage such pride of place because they wanted to protect and strengthen those who, as a mother and father, want to give life to their children.”

“I regret the fact that the legislature has given up on essential aspects of the marriage concept in order to make the latter amenable to same-sex partnerships,” he said June 30.

Lawmakers in Germany's parliament voted in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in the country by changing the definition of marriage in their legal code to include two persons of the same sex.

In a statement reacting to the vote, Archbishop Koch, chairman of the commission for marriage and family of the German bishops' conference, said he also regrets a loss in differentiation between different forms of partnership as a means to “stress the value of same-sex partnerships.”

Regarding different forms of relationship, “differentiation, however, is not discrimination,” he said.

“If the protection of relationships and the assumption of shared responsibility is now provided as a justification for the opening of marriage,” he continued, “then this means a substantial rebalancing of content and a dilution of the classic marriage concept.”

He went on to stress that the Church’s understanding of marriage and its sacramental nature have not changed with the law, and that Catholics must continue to present publically the truth and goodness of the reality of marriage as being between one man and one woman.

“As the Catholic Church, we will now increasingly face the challenge of convincingly presenting the vitality of the Catholic understanding of marriage,” he said. “At the same time, I recall that the sacramental character of our marriage understanding remains unaffected by today's decision in the Bundestag.”

The vote passed the lower house of Germany’s parliament 393 to 226, with four abstentions. The vote, which took place in a sudden and somewhat unexpected manner, was added to Friday's agenda by the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the Greens, and The Left.  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel herself voted against the redefinition, pointing to her belief in marriage as being between a man and a woman.

However, the chancellor paved the way for the vote to take place with the announcement Monday that she had changed her position on adoption by same-sex couples and would allow deputies of her party, the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), a free vote, so they could act according to their “conscience,” she said.

Several of those who voted in favor of the change in definition are members of the Central Committee of German Catholics.

The move was opposed by the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, Alternative for Germany (which holds no seats in the Bundestag), and some members of the CDU.

The session was the final before parliament's summer recess and the country's national elections in September.

Representatives of the Church in Germany, including the chairman of the German bishops' conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, spoke out against the measure shortly before the vote.

“The German Bishops' Conference emphasizes that marriage, not only from a Christian point of view, is the bond of life and love of woman and man as a principally lifelong connection with the fundamental openness to life.”

“We are of the opinion that the State must continue to protect and promote marriage in this form,” they stated.

Since 2001, it has been legal for same-sex couples in Germany to enter into civil unions, although now they will be allowed the legal protections of marriage, including the option to adopt children.

From here the legislation goes on to the upper house of Parliament for formal approval. It then requires the signature of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to go into effect, which will likely take place before the end of 2017.

With this change, Germany joins more than 20 other countries that have legalized gay marriage over the last 16 years, including Ireland and the United States in 2015.


          Even in Barcelona one can see the peripheries, Cardinal Omella says   

Barcelona, Spain, Jun 30, 2017 / 11:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- “Enough with the jokes,” then-Archbishop Juan José Omella Omella of Barcelona said when he got the call.

But it wasn’t a joke: A friend was calling him from St. Peter’s Square to tell him that Pope Francis had just announced his name among the five men who were to become cardinals at a consistory which was held June 28.

After receiving the announcement, Omella continued with his plans for the day, including visiting prisoners. He met with journalists the next morning.

“Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city where people from all over the world go,” he told journalists in Rome this week when asked what it means to serve from the peripheries in his city. “You only have to be at the plaza where the door of the cathedral of Barcelona is for a moment to see that there they speak all the languages, and all races and all cultures pass. Or go to the Sagrada Familia to see the amount of people who come everyday.”

“(T)he Church, after the Council, wants to be the Samaritan Church that accompanies the people of this world and picking up those who suffer, those who don’t have a sense of life, who are in complicated situations such as war,” he said. “I think that the Church must be present in these worlds, and to make them understand that the Pope, [in] drawing and creating cardinals from these areas, [says it’s important that] the Church is present in these areas.”

Cardinal Omella was born in the small town of Cretas in a Catalan-speaking region of Aragon in 1946. In his priestly formation, he studied in Belgium as well as Jerusalem. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Zaragoza in 1970, at the age of 24. He served for a year as a missionary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In 1996, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Zaragoza, and in 1999 made Bishop of Barbastro-Monzón. He was appointed Bishop of Calahorra y La Calzada-Logroño in 2004. In 2015, Pope Francis appointed him Archbishop of Barcelona.

Since his episcopal consecration, Cardinal Omella has been a member of the Spanish bishops' social-pastoral commission.

Among the five men elevated at Wednesday’s consistory, Cardinal Omella, 71, stands out in that his selection for the College of Cardinals is in no way unprecedented, whereas Francis’ other choices had at least one unique aspect about their appointment. Cardinal Omella comes from a traditional cardinalate see – his three predecessors were also cardinals. His immediate predecessor, Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, aged out of the electorate when he turned 80 in April.

“This isn’t about attaining great honors,” Omella told Vatican Radio May 22. “I’m not about making a career, but service.”

The Church has to “unite institutions for the common good, so that no one feels cast aside,” he said. “I believe that it is a job we must do at all levels.”

 


          En defensa de los derechos fundamentales en internet.   
"Manifiesto “En defensa de los derechos fundamentales en internet”:

Ante la inclusión en el Anteproyecto de Ley de Economía sostenible de modificaciones legislativas que afectan al libre ejercicio de las libertades de expresión, información y el derecho de acceso a la cultura a través de Internet, los periodistas, bloggers, usuarios, profesionales y creadores de internet manifestamos nuestra firme oposición al proyecto, y declaramos que…

1.- Los derechos de autor no pueden situarse por encima de los derechos fundamentales de los ciudadanos, como el derecho a la privacidad, a la seguridad, a la presunción de inocencia, a la tutela judicial efectiva y a la libertad de expresión.

2.- La suspensión de derechos fundamentales es y debe seguir siendo competencia exclusiva del poder judicial. Ni un cierre sin sentencia. Este anteproyecto, en contra de lo establecido en el artículo 20.5 de la Constitución, pone en manos de un órgano no judicial – un organismo dependiente del ministerio de Cultura -, la potestad de impedir a los ciudadanos españoles el acceso a cualquier página web.

3.- La nueva legislación creará inseguridad jurídica en todo el sector tecnológico español, perjudicando uno de los pocos campos de desarrollo y futuro de nuestra economía, entorpeciendo la creación de empresas, introduciendo trabas a la libre competencia y ralentizando su proyección internacional.

4.- La nueva legislación propuesta amenaza a los nuevos creadores y entorpece la creación cultural. Con Internet y los sucesivos avances tecnológicos se ha democratizado extraordinariamente la creación y emisión de contenidos de todo tipo, que ya no provienen prevalentemente de las industrias culturales tradicionales, sino de multitud de fuentes diferentes.

5.- Los autores, como todos los trabajadores, tienen derecho a vivir de su trabajo con nuevas ideas creativas, modelos de negocio y actividades asociadas a sus creaciones. Intentar sostener con cambios legislativos a una industria obsoleta que no sabe adaptarse a este nuevo entorno no es ni justo ni realista. Si su modelo de negocio se basaba en el control de las copias de las obras y en Internet no es posible sin vulnerar derechos fundamentales, deberían buscar otro modelo.

6.- Consideramos que las industrias culturales necesitan para sobrevivir alternativas modernas, eficaces, creíbles y asequibles y que se adecuen a los nuevos usos sociales, en lugar de limitaciones tan desproporcionadas como ineficaces para el fin que dicen perseguir.

7.- Internet debe funcionar de forma libre y sin interferencias políticas auspiciadas por sectores que pretenden perpetuar obsoletos modelos de negocio e imposibilitar que el saber humano siga siendo libre.

8.- Exigimos que el Gobierno garantice por ley la neutralidad de la Red en España, ante cualquier presión que pueda producirse, como marco para el desarrollo de una economía sostenible y realista de cara al futuro.

9.- Proponemos una verdadera reforma del derecho de propiedad intelectual orientada a su fin: devolver a la sociedad el conocimiento, promover el dominio público y limitar los abusos de las entidades gestoras.

10.- En democracia las leyes y sus modificaciones deben aprobarse tras el oportuno debate público y habiendo consultado previamente a todas las partes implicadas. No es de recibo que se realicen cambios legislativos que afectan a derechos fundamentales en una ley no orgánica y que versa sobre otra materia.

Este manifiesto, elaborado de forma conjunta por varios autores, es de todos y de ninguno. Si quieres sumarte a él, difúndelo por Internet."

Pues eso. Difúndelo tu tambien.

          Democratic Ideas On ACA Improvements; More From CBO On BCRA Medicaid Cuts   

On June 28, 2017, the New York Times reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, facing difficulty in corralling 50 Republican Senators to unite behind a version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, has suggested he might turn to the Democrats for help in shoring up the deteriorating situation under the ACA if he cannot get Republicans in line. If he does so, he may find that Democrats have both a proposed diagnosis and cure for the most immediately pressing problems facing the individual insurance market.

On June 28, 2017, the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions released a joint report entitled “A Manufactured Crisis: Trump Administration and Republican Sabotage of the Health Care System.” The report details how individual market stability is being undermined by the uncertainty created by President Trump’s repeated threats to withhold reimbursement from insurers that are legally required to reduce cost sharing for 7.1 million exchange enrollees, coupled with his ambivalence regarding the enforcement of the individual mandate. The report includes numerous quotes from insurance regulators and insurers from nearly 20 states and nationwide warning that uncertainty regarding cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments and individual mandate enforcement is causing insurers to raise premiums and exit individual insurance markets.

Also on June 28, 2017, Senator Jean Shaheen, joined by 20 Democratic Senators, introduced the Market Certainty Act. (text) This bill would clarify that funds were permanently appropriated to fund the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reductions. It would also expand eligibility for the CSRs, making them available to individuals with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. It would increase the amount of cost-sharing reductions so that individuals with incomes between 100 and 200 percent of FPL would be responsible for only 5 percent of cost sharing on average; individuals with incomes between 200 and 300 percent of FPL for 10 percent, and individuals with incomes between 300 percent and 400 percent of FPL for 15 percent.

Under current law, individuals between 100 and 150 percent of FPL must pay 6 percent of costs on average; individuals between 150 and 200 percent of FPL, 13 percent; individuals between 200 and 250, 27 percent; and individuals above 250 percent of FPL, 30 percent.

Under the Republican Better Care Act, cost sharing reductions would be funded at current levels through 2019 and then repealed. After that, consumers would be responsible for 42 percent of health care costs on average under plans that could be purchased with premium tax credits available to individuals with incomes below 350 percent of FPL. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the deductible for an individual at 75 percent of FPL under the Better Care Act would be half of annual income, and that few low-income individuals would purchase coverage with such little value.

Senator Shaheen’s proposal, coupled with reinsurance legislation offered by Senator Shaheen and other Democrats earlier in June, could go far toward stabilizing individual insurance markets, luring insurers back into markets they have abandoned and lowering premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket limits for insured Americans.

As noted in the Democratic staff report (and by others), the uncertainty regarding the commitment of the Trump administration to continuing cost sharing reduction payments is a major factor contributing to destabilization of individual insurance markets. (Anthem has apparently announced it is leaving 14 counties in Nevada, leaving 61 bare counties in Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and Nevada for 2018.) Given this situation, a frequently asked question posted at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid REGTAP.info website on June 28, 2017, strikes a note of irony. The FAQ describes in detail procedures that insurers must follow to address discrepancies in their cost-sharing reduction payment reconciliation data for 2016. CMS will notify insurers regarding overpayment or underpayment of CSRs for 2016 on June 30, 2017. Insurers have until August 11 to notify CMS of data discrepancies. It is all very technical, but illustrates again that while at the policy level storms are raging in the individual insurance market, at the technical level the engines keep chugging along.

CBO Projects Medicaid Cuts In Senate GOP Bill Would Reach 35 Percent By 2036

On June 28, 2017, the CBO released a supplement to its June 26 Better Care Reconciliation Act cost estimate. The supplement was requested by the Democratic ranking members of the Budget Committee and Finance Committee. It addresses the effects of the BCRA on Medicaid spending beyond 2026. The CBO recognizes the limits to its ability to make very long-term spending projections but does predict how the BCRA would affect spending through 2036.

The BCRA imposes a per-capita cap on federal Medicaid funding growth for some groups of enrollees beginning in 2020, and reduces the cap as of 2025 so that federal funding growth rates for all groups would be pegged to the consumer price index for all urban consumers. CBO had earlier estimated that BCRA’s Medicaid provisions would reduce federal Medicaid spending by 26 percent as of 2026—a $160 billion cut in spending for that year—compared to spending under current growth rates.

The CBO projects that the gap between federal Medicaid spending under the BCRA and under current law would widen to 35 percent by 2036. The CBO projects that Medicaid costs to maintain current services will grow at an annual rate of 0.7 percent above GDP growth in 2027, which will rise to a 0.9 percent annual excess growth rate above GDP growth by 2036. General increases in cost in the health care system attributable in part to new technologies will drive the cost of services higher while Medicaid programs will have to replace federal spending by state spending, cut provider payment rates, reduce benefits, restrict eligibility, or find some way to provide services more efficiently.

CBO believes that dollar projections 20 years out are misleading and thus gives its spending projections in terms of percent of GDP. In the absence of the BCRA, Medicaid spending would account for 2 percent of GDP for 2017 and 2.4 percent by 2036. CBO projects that under BCRA, Medicaid spending will account for 1.6 percent of GDP in 2036, a 35 percent cut. Medicaid would be a very different program in 2036 than it is now.


          Minneapolis Just Adopted a $15 Minimum Wage in a Landslide Vote   
City council members credit the hard work of grassroots labor organizations.

The Minneapolis City Council passed a law Friday making it the first Midwestern city to adopt a $15 minimum wage, increasing the salaries of 71,000 workers by 2024. 

With the historic vote, Minneapolis joins a growing wave of progressive U.S. cities like San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C., where the Fight for $15 movement and other grassroots organizations have scored major labor victories.

Before the vote, which passed 12-1, Minneapolis city council members credited activists and organizers from Fight for $15 and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha for pushing the bill forward. 

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) tweeted a video of himself singing "Money (That's What I Want)" in celebration of the news. 

“Keep it up. We’re going to fight here in Washington, you guys are fighting there in Minneapolis, we’re fighting all over the country so the American people can get a raise,” Ellison said. 

In May, Ellison, the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, alongside Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Senate introduced a $15 minimum wage bill that has little chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress. 

In the face of austerity and social safety net cuts in the federal government, grassroots organizers and activists are looking more and more to local and state arenas to implement policies that combat poverty and inequality. 

 

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          World: General Assembly Approves Appropriation of $6.8 Billion for 14 Peacekeeping Operations in 2017/18   
Source: UN General Assembly
Country: Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Western Sahara, World

GENERAL ASSEMBLY PLENARY
SEVENTY-FIRST, 89TH MEETING (AM)
GA/11927 30 JUNE 2017

Approving the appropriation of $6.80 billion for 14 peacekeeping operations for the 2017/18 fiscal period, the General Assembly today adopted 21 resolutions and one decision contained in reports from its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary). (See Press Release GA/AB/4239.)

Appropriating funds for peacekeeping operations from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, the Assembly adopted resolutions on missions in Abyei, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Darfur, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Golan, Haiti, Kosovo, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, South Sudan and Western Sahara.

All texts were adopted without a vote, with the exception of the resolution setting out budgetary arrangements for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which it adopted by a recorded vote of 137 in favour to 3 against (Canada, Israel, United States) with no abstentions.

The Assembly also adopted related drafts on the support account for peacekeeping operations, and financing for the account; on the triennial review of the rates and standards for reimbursement to Member States for contingent-owned equipment; and on the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy, and Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda.

As well, it adopted a resolution on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, by which it requested the Secretary-General to immediately inform Member States concerned of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, and called upon Member States — including those deploying non-United Nations forces authorized by a Security Council mandate — to investigate such cases, hold perpetrators accountable and repatriate units where there was credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse.

Also adopted was a text on the United Nations financial reports and audited financial statements on peacekeeping missions, as well as the Board of Auditors’ reports on them.

Finally, the Assembly adopted a draft decision by which it deferred, until the second part of its resumed seventy-second session, consideration of reports from the Secretary-General, and related reports from the Advisory Committee, regarding closed peacekeeping missions.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Assembly took action on the draft resolutions contained in reports from its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), which were introduced by Committee Rapporteur Diana Lee (Singapore).

First, it adopted a resolution contained in the budget Committee’s report on financial reports and audited financial statements, and reports of the Board of Auditors (document A/71/702/Add.1), accepting the financial report and audited financial statements of United Nations peacekeeping operations for the period ending 30 June 2016. It endorsed the recommendations in the corresponding reports of the Board and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), and asked the Secretary-General to ensure their full implementation. It went on to ask the Secretary-General to indicate an expected time frame for implementation, and to give, in his next report, a full explanation for delays in implementation of the Board’s outstanding recommendations, the root causes of recurring issues and measures to be taken.

It then turned to the report on administrative and budgetary aspects of financing peacekeeping operations (document A/71/708/Add.1), adopting five resolutions contained therein.

First, it adopted resolution I on the financing of the Regional Service Centre in Entebbe, Uganda, by which it approved the amount of $33 million for the maintenance of the Centre for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018.

Then it adopted resolution II on the financing of the United Nations Logistics Base at Brindisi, Italy, by which the Assembly would approve the cost estimates for the Base in the amount of $81 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018.

Next, it adopted resolution III on the support account for peacekeeping operations. By its terms, the Assembly decided to approve the support account requirements of $325.80 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $25.04 million for the enterprise resource planning project, $821,500 for information and systems security and $868,500 for the global service delivery model. It also approved the requirement of 1,357 continuing and 3 new temporary posts, as well as the abolishment, redeployment, reassignment and reclassification of posts, as set out in annex I of the text; and 77 continuing and 3 new general temporary assistance positions and 59 person-months, as set out in annex II, as well as related post and non-post requirements.

The Assembly went on to adopt resolution IV on the triennial review of the rates and standards for reimbursement to Member States for contingent-owned equipment. By doing so, it took note of the report of the 2017 Working Group on Contingent-Owned Equipment and the report of the Secretary-General. It also endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report of the ACABQ.

Finally, it adopted resolution V on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. By its terms, the Assembly welcomed the Secretary-General’s determination to fully implement the United Nations policy of zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as his determination to fully enforce the newly promulgated policy of whistle-blower protection. It requested that he immediately inform Member States concerned of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, and called upon Member States — including those deploying non-United Nations forces authorized by a Security Council mandate — to investigate such cases, hold perpetrators accountable and repatriate units where there was credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse.

Turning to reports on peacekeeping missions, the Assembly first adopted a text on financing of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) (document A/71/945), by which it decided to appropriate to the Special Account for UNISFA the amount of $285.12 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $266.70 million for the maintenance of the Force, $13.49 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations, $3.38 million for the United Nations Logistics Base and $1.56 million for the Regional Service Centre.

Turning to a report on financing of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) (document A/71/946), the Assembly decided to appropriate to the Special Account for the Mission $943.77 million from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $882.80 million for the maintenance of the Mission, $44.65 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations, $11.16 million for the United Nations Logistics Base and $5.16 million for the Regional Service Centre.

The Assembly then adopted a text on financing of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) (document A/71/715/Add.1). By its terms, the Assembly, recalling Security Council resolution 2284 (2016) extending the mission mandate for a final period until 30 June 2017, decided that, for Member States that had fulfilled their financial obligations to the Operation, shall be credited with their respective share of $65.22 million, comprising the unencumbered balance of $48.68 million and $16.54 million of other revenue in respect of the financial period ending 30 June 2016.

It then adopted a resolution on financing of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) (document A/71/947). By its terms, it decided to appropriate to the Special Account for UNFICYP $57.41 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, inclusive of $54.00 million for the maintenance of the Force, $2.73 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations and $682,900 for the United Nations Logistics Base.

Next, it adopted a report on financing of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) (document A/71/948), appropriating to the Special Account for MONUSCO $1.22 billion for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, inclusive of $1.14 billion for the maintenance of the Mission, $57.74 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations, $14.44 million for the United Nations Logistics Base and $6.67 million for the Regional Service Centre.

The Assembly then adopted a resolution contained in the Committee’s report on financing of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) (document A/71/933) by which it decided to appropriate to the Special Account for that Mission $5.69 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017, including $4.55 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations and $1.14 million for the United Nations Logistics Base.

Next, the Assembly adopted a resolution on financing of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) (document A/71/950), by which it decided to appropriate to the Special Account for UNMIK $40.29 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $37.90 million for the maintenance of the Mission, $1.92 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations and $479,200 for the United Nations Logistics Base.

It then adopted a resolution on financing of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) (document A/71/951). By its terms, it appropriated to the Special Account for UNMIL $116.95 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $110.00 million for the maintenance of the Mission, $5.56 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations and $1.91 million for the United Nations Logistics Base.

The Assembly also adopted a resolution on financing of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) (document A/71/952), by which it decided to appropriate to the Special Account for MINUSMA $1.12 billion for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $1.05 billion for the maintenance of the Mission, $53.00 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations, $13.25 million for the United Nations Logistics Base and $6.12 million for the Regional Service Centre.

Under its agenda item on financing of the United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Middle East, the Assembly took action on resolutions contained in two reports.

It first adopted a draft on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) (document A/71/953), by which it decided to appropriate to the Special Account for the Force the amount of $61.30 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $57.65 million for the maintenance of UNDOF, $2.92 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations and $729,100 for the United Nations Logistics Base.

The representative of Syria said his delegation had joined consensus on the resolutions on United Nations peacekeeping forces in the Middle East. However, it believed that it was Israel’s responsibility to pay for those Missions.

The Assembly then turned to a resolution contained in the report on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) (document A/71/954).

By a recorded vote of 85 in favour to 3 against (Canada, Israel, United States) with 53 abstentions, the Assembly adopted preambular paragraph 4 and operative paragraphs 4, 5 and 13.

Taking action on the draft resolution as a whole, the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 137 in favour to 3 against (Canada, Israel, United States) with no abstentions.

By its terms, the Assembly decided to appropriate to the Special Account for UNIFIL the amount of $513.53 million, for the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, inclusive of $483.00 million for the maintenance of the Force, $24.43 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations and $6.11 million for the United Nations Logistics Base.

Also by the draft, the Assembly expressed deep concern that Israel had not complied with previous resolutions on UNIFIL, and requested that the Secretary-General take the measures necessary to ensure the full implementation of their relevant paragraphs.

The Assembly then adopted a resolution on financing of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) (document A/71/955), by which it decided to appropriate to the Special Account for UNMISS $1.14 billion for the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $1.07 billion for the maintenance of the Mission, $54.16 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations and $13.54 million for the United Nations Logistics Base and $6.26 million for the Regional Service Centre.

The Assembly then adopted the resolution in the report on financing of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) (document A/71/956), by which it decided to appropriate to the Special Account for MINURSO $55.59 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $52.00 million for the maintenance of the Mission, $2.63 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations, $657,600 for the United Nations Logistics Base and $303,800 for the Regional Service Centre.

It then adopted a resolution on financing of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (document A/71/957), by which it appropriated to the Special Account for UNAMID $33.56 million for the period of 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $24.58 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations and $6.15 million for the United Nations Logistics Base and $2.84 million for the Regional Service Centre.

Taking up the report on financing of the activities arising from Security Council resolution 1863 (2009) (document A/71/958), the Assembly decided to appropriate to the Special Account for the United Nations Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia (UNSOA) $622.19 million for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018, including $582.00 million for the maintenance of the Office, $29.43 million for the support account for peacekeeping operations, $7.36 million for the United Nations Logistics Base and $3.40 million for the Regional Service Centre.

Finally, acting on the Committee’s report on review of the efficiency of the administration and financial functioning of the United Nations (document A/71/717/Add.2), the Assembly deferred until the second part of its resumed seventy-second session consideration of the reports of the Secretary-General and the ACABQ on closed peacekeeping missions.


          Aides say Hawaii senator's surgery successful   

Aides to Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, who is being treated for kidney cancer, say surgery to remove a lesion on her rib went well. The surgery was Tuesday.


          Trump to meet Putin at G20 summit, White House says   
US intelligence agencies agree Russia was behind last year’s hack of Democratic email systems and tried to influence the 2016 election.
          Fake news outlet New York Times forced to retract ‘Russian hacking’ story   
The New York Times has finally admitted that one of the favorite Russia-gate canards – that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred on the assessment of Russian hacking of Democratic emails – is false. On Thursday, the Times appended a correction to a June 25 article that had repeated the false claim, which has been used by …
          Israel, American Jewry and Trump's GOP   

Earlier this month Norway, Denmark and Switzerland did something surprising.

Norway announced that it was demanding the return of its money from the Palestinian Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Secretariat, for the latter's funding of a Palestinian women's group that built a youth center near Nablus named for PLO mass murderer Dalal Mughrabi.

Denmark followed, announcing it was cutting off all funding to the group.

And last week, the Swiss parliament passed a resolution directing the government to amend Swiss law to block funding of NGOs "involved in racist, antisemitic or hate incitement actions."

For years, the Israeli government has been urging these and other European governments to stop funding such groups, to no avail. What explains their abrupt change of heart?

In two words: Donald Trump.

For years, the Obama administration quietly encouraged the Europeans to fund these groups and to ratchet up their anti-Israel positions. Doing so, the former administration believed, would coerce Israel to make concessions to the PLO.

But now, Trump and his advisers are delivering the opposite message. And, as the actions by Denmark, Norway and Switzerland show, the new message is beginning to be received.

If the US administration keeps moving forward on this trajectory, it can do far more than suspend funding for one terrorism-supporting Palestinian NGO. It can shut down the entire BDS industry before Trump finishes his current term in office.

To understand what can and ought to be done, it is first important to understand the nature of the BDS movement. Under the catchphrase BDS, two separate campaigns against Israel and against Jews are being carried out.

The first BDS campaign is a campaign of economic warfare. The focal point of that campaign is Europe. The purpose of the campaign is to harm Israel's economy by enacting discriminatory, anti-Israel trade policies and encouraging unofficial consumer and business boycotts of Israeli firms and products.

The US Congress can end this economic war against Israel by passing laws penalizing European states for engaging in trade practices that breach the World Trade Organization treaties. The US Treasury Department can also push strongly and effectively for such an end in its trade negotiations with the EU. The Treasury Department can also investigate whether and how EU trade practices toward Israel constitute unlawful barriers to trade.

Unlike the situation in Europe, where the BDS economic war against Israel is fairly advanced, efforts in the US to mount economic boycotts of Israel hit an iceberg early on due to the swift preemptive actions taken by state legislatures.

In 2015, then-South Carolina governor Nikki Haley became the first governor to sign a law barring her state government from doing business or investing in companies that boycott Israel. Last week Kansas became the 21st US state to pass an anti-BDS law along the same lines. Last month, all 50 state governors declared opposition to BDS.

The second BDS campaign being carried out against Israel is a form of political and social warfare.

Its epicenter is US academia. Its purpose is to erode US support for Israel, by making it politically unacceptable and socially devastating to publicly voice support for Israel on college campuses and more generally in leftist circles.

As is the case with the economic BDS campaign, the best way to defeat political BDS is through state and federal government action. If state and federal governments withheld funding to universities and colleges that permit BDS groups to operate on their campuses, campus administrators, who to date have refused to lift a finger against these hate groups, would be forced into action.

If the US Education and Justice departments opened civil rights investigations against major BDS groups for antisemitic bigotry, campus administrators would finally begin banning them from their campuses.

For many Israelis, the notion that defeating BDS is a job for the US government rather than for grassroots, American Jewish activists, will come as a surprise.

When Israelis think about the BDS movement, they tend to think that the American Jewish community is the place to turn for assistance.

This is not merely incorrect.

As two studies published in the last few weeks show, the notion that Israel can look to the American Jewish community for help with anything is becoming increasingly dubious.

To be sure, there are several American Jewish groups that devote massive resources to combating BDS on campuses. But their actions are tactical.

They fight specific BDS resolutions coming to votes before student councils. They train pro-Israel students to defend Israel to their peers.

While helpful, none of these actions constitutes a serious challenge to the movement.

On a strategic level, the effective moves made to date against BDS have been initiated by Republicans.

Alan Clemmons, the South Carolina lawmaker who initiated the anti-BDS bill in his statehouse and has since gone on to spearhead the state government anti-BDS drive nationally, is a Christian Zionist.

Clemmons didn't act out of concern for South Carolinian Jews. The Jewish community of South Carolina numbers a mere 20,000 members. The state-by-state anti-economic BDS campaign is neither the brainchild of any major Jewish group nor the product of their efforts.

So, too, to the extent that the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress take action to defeat BDS on campuses and in Europe, they won't be answering the call of their Jewish constituents. American Jews vote overwhelmingly for the increasingly anti-Israel Democratic Party. And while making up a mere 2% of the US population, American Jews contributed 50% of the donations to the Democratic Party in the 2016 elections.

This then brings us to the two studies of the American Jewish community and its future trajectory.

The first study was published by the Jewish Agency's Jewish People Policy Institute. It analyzes the data from the 2013 Pew survey of American Jewish attitudes. The Pew survey demonstrated that the Jewish identity of American Jews is growing increasingly attenuated and superficial.

Famously, the study noted that while 19% of American Jews said that they view observance of Jewish law as an essential part of their Jewish identity, 42% said they viewed having a good sense of humor as an essential part of their Jewish identity.

The JPPI study analyzed the Pew data regarding rates of marriage and childbearing among American Jews aged 24-54. The study started with the data on intermarriage. Sixty percent of non-haredi American Jews are married to non-Jews. A mere 32% of married American Jews are raising their children as Jewish to some degree.

From there, the JPPI study considered marriage and childbirth rates in general. It works out that a mere 50% of American Jews between 24 and 54 are married. And a mere 40% of American Jews between those ages have children living with them. In other words, the majority of adult American Jews are childless.

The JPPI study tells us two important things.

First, in the coming years there will be far fewer American Jews. Second, among those who are Jewish, their Jewish identity will continue to weaken.

Clearly, it would be unwise for Israel to believe that it can depend on such a community to secure its interests in the US for the long haul.

The second study shows that not only can Israel not expect the American Jewish community to help it maintain its alliance with the US. The number of American Jews willing to spearhead anti-Israel campaigns is likely to grow in the coming years.

The second study was produced by Brand Israel, a group of public relations experts that for the past decade has been trying to change the way young Americans think about Israel. The idea was to discuss aspects of Israel that have nothing to do with the Palestinians, with an emphasis on Israel as a hi-tech power. The hope was that by branding Israel as the Start-Up Nation, leftists, who support the Palestinians, would still support Israel.

Fern Oppenheim, one of the leaders of Brand Israel, presented the conclusions of an analysis of the group's work at the Herzliya Conference this week and discussed them with the media. It works out that the PR campaign backfired.

Far from inspiring increased support for Israel, Oppenheim argued that the hi-tech-centric branding campaign made leftist American Jews even more anti-Israel. She related that over the past decade, there has been an 18-point drop in support for Israel among US Jewish students.

To remedy the situation, which she referred to as "devastating," Oppenheim recommended changing the conversation from hi-tech to "shared values."

The problem with Oppenheim's recommendation is that it ignores the problem.

Young American Jews aren't turning against Israel because their values are different from Israeli values. By and large, they have the same values as Israeli society. And if they know anything about Israel, they know that their values aren't in conflict with Israeli values.

Young American Jews are turning on Israel for two reasons. First, they don't care that they are Jewish and as a consequence, see no reason to stick their necks out on Israel's behalf.

And second, due in large part to the political BDS campaign on college campuses, supporting Israel requires them to endanger or relinquish their ideological home on the Left. Since their leftist identities are far stronger than their Jewish identities, young American Jews are joining the BDS mob in increasing numbers.

This then brings us back to BDS.

The only way to diminish the groundswell of American Jews who are becoming hostile toward Israel is to defeat the forces of political BDS on campuses. To do this, Israel should turn not to the Jewish community but to evangelical Christians, the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress.

As for the American Jews, Israel needs to stop viewing the community as a resource and begin to view it as a community in crisis. To this end, the most significant contribution Israel can make to the American Jewish community - particularly to non-Orthodox American Jews - is to encourage them to make aliya. Assuming that current trends will continue, the only way non-Orthodox American Jews can have faith their grandchildren will be Jewish is for a significant number of them to make aliya.

No, this won't appeal to all American Jews. But nothing Israel does will. Israel's job isn't to reach the unreachable. It is to protect its alliance with the US and to help the Jews that remain in the room. 

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A version of this piece also appeared on The Jerusalem Post.

 

 


          Keeping a Promise to the Polish People   

President Trump has a chance to set things right with America's most faithful ally.

 

It's unsurprising that the White House recently scheduled a presidential visit to Poland in conjunction with the upcoming G-20 Summit. The U.S. State Department describes this Central European country of 38.6 million people as a stalwart ally and "one of the United States' strongest partners on the continent in fostering transatlantic security and prosperity regionally, throughout Europe, and the world."

What is surprising is that, despite historical ties dating back to the American Revolutionary War, the strong alliance, and a robust domestic Polish-American population of about 10 million, the U.S. government hasn't found a way to treat Polish citizens the same way as it does those living in most other European countries when it comes to visiting the United States. Since it shed communism in 1989 after 42 years of domination and became a free and democratic state, Poland has unsuccessfully tried to gain entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

The U.S. failure to grant VWP status to Poland is an embarrassment to many Americans as well as a major disappointment and irritant to Poles and a succession of its leaders. Poland's former president and Nobel Laureate Lech Walesa described VWP entry as a "matter of honor" for Poland.

In a speech before the Polish American Congress in September 2016, Candidate Trump promised to remedy this problem by making it possible for Poland to become part of the VWP. His promise echoes that of his presidential predecessor, Barack Obama, who promised to do the same several years earlier but didn't deliver. Several previous attempts by U.S. Congress members to legislate a fix to bring Poland into the program have also failed. Congress is now considering The Poland Waiver Act of 2017 (H.R. 2388).

What is the VWP? The U.S. established the VWP in 1986 primarily to facilitate commerce and tourism between friendly nations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security administers the program in consultation with the State Department. Since its inception, the program has evolved into a security partnership with special passport and security upgrades to detect and prevent terrorists, criminals, and other mala fide actors from entering each country. There are presently 38 countries in VWP, 29 of them European. The program features reciprocal agreements allowing citizens to travel on business or pleasure without visas and no application fees between member countries for up to 90 days.

What has Poland done to gain VWP entry? Three important ingredients for gaining VWP status are national wealth, a high Human Development Index, and a low-security risk. Poland scores well on each count. It has seen its economy dramatically grow to 25th in the world at $1.1 trillion. The 2017 United Nations Development Report classified Poland as a "very high" Human Development Index country with its 78 years average life expectancy, 99.8 percent literacy rate for males and females, and $27,700 plus average annual income. And with its strong American ties, NATO membership, participation in the Afghanistan and Iraq military coalitions, and the general absence of radical Islamic terror attacks on its soil Poland clearly isn't a security threat. Moreover, it has implemented and adopted VWP-related security measures and information-sharing protocols asked of them by the U.S. government.

What is preventing Poland's VWP entry? A provision in the Immigration and Nationality Act which requires a visa refusal rate of 3 percent or less to qualify for the program - and Poland's FY 2016 visa refusal rate according to the State Department is 5.7 percent, which although is a dramatic drop from previous years still doesn't pass the congressionally-mandated program muster. The State Department reported that 186,555 Polish citizens applied for nonimmigrant visas to visit the U.S. for business or pleasure. Each paid a non-fundable fee of $160. Of the applicants, U.S. consular officers refused to approve visas for 10,060 of them.

However, using the visa refusal rate alone to exclude a country from the program can be somewhat misleading. For example, the prime concern for U.S. immigration officials is not necessarily the percentage of visa refusals by U.S. consular officers, but the actual number of nonimmigrants from VWP and other countries who overstay their 90-day visit. DHS's FY 2016 Overstay Report reveals that VWP members United Kingdom had 20,670 suspected overstays; Germany had 18,780; Italy had 14,896; Spain had 11,716; and France had 10,358 compared to non-VWP Poland's 2,787 suspected overstays!

President Trump can take the following actions to facilitate Poland's VWP entry and/or make it easier for Polish citizens to visit the United States. One, he can urge Congress to pass the Poland Waiver Act of 2017; two, he can ask the DHS and State Department secretaries to determine the reasons why Poles are being refused visas at a greater percentage than INA requires and to determine if any legal and administrative remedies are available for Poland to achieve a lower rate; and three, ask the Secretary of State to determine if the $160 visa application fee for Polish citizens can be legally waived - as it has been for VWP member countries and like the Polish government has already done for U.S. citizens traveling to Poland.

One is hard-pressed to find a better friend and more loyal U.S. ally than Poland. For that reason, President Trump should keep his promise and use his leadership ability and/or executive power to ensure this matter doesn't languish in the Federal bureaucracy or Congress any longer. Making it easier for the Poland's citizens to visit the U.S. on business and pleasure would further cement the bilateral relationship and surely please millions of them and their American cousins.

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A version of this piece also appeared on https://spectator.org/


          The "Crime of the Century" is Bad Journalism   

The latest propaganda piece from The Washington Post, "Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault," is based, as usual, mostly on anonymous sources determined to make former President Barack Obama look good. The gist is that Obama tried his best to punish Russia for alleged interference in the 2016 election, but he fell short and left the matter in the hands of President Donald Trump, who has done nothing.

So Trump is blamed for Obama's failure. How convenient.

The essence of the piece is that "intelligence" was "captured" that somehow proved that Russian President Vladimir Putin gave "specific instructions" that he wanted  to "defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump."

Pardon me, but I don't believe this for a moment. This "intelligence" may be what the Post seeks to expose-Russian "active measures" or disinformation.

As we reported back in January, "Looking at the election objectively, it is possible to say that Russian leader Vladimir Putin may have had a personal vendetta against the former U.S. secretary of state for some reason, stemming from allegations of U.S. meddling in Russian internal affairs. On the other hand, Putin may have preferred that Clinton become the U.S. president because her failed Russian ‘reset' had facilitated Russian military intervention in Ukraine and Syria, and he believed he could continue to take advantage of her."

This makes far more sense than the Post story.

Remember that Obama won the 2012 election after dismissing his Republican opponent Mitt Romney's claim that Russia was a geopolitical threat to the United States. Obama had also been caught on an open mic before the election promising to be "flexible" in changing his positions to benefit Russia.

"These comments provide more evidence that Obama was never the anti-Russian figure he postured as in the final days of his second term," we noted.

The Post story by Greg Miller and others is an obvious response to the observation that, if Obama thought the Russian interference was such a big deal, what did Obama try to do about it?

One can read the entire article if you are interested in how pro-Obama propaganda is manufactured by the Post. Some parts of the article are more ludicrous than others, such as this paragraph:

"Throughout his presidency, Obama's approach to national security challenges was deliberate and cautious. He came into office seeking to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was loath to act without support from allies overseas and firm political footing at home. He was drawn only reluctantly into foreign crises, such as the civil war in Syria, that presented no clear exit for the United States."

The paragraph is designed to mask Obama's indifference to Russian aggression in places like Crimea, Ukraine and Syria. In regard to the latter, Obama failed to save Syria from Russian aggression and facilitated a conflict-through secret arms shipments to the region-that now stands at 500,000 dead.

Obama's alleged "cautious" approach in the Middle East was to support jihadist groups in Syria and Libya, and back regimes such as the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, which was overthrown by the military backed by the people.

The hero in the Post account is Obama's CIA director John Brennan, who joined the agency after admitting to voting for Moscow's man in the 1976 presidential election, Gus Hall of the Communist Party USA. Suddenly, we are led to believe, as CIA director, he became anti-Russian after discovering a Moscow plot in 2016 to disrupt the presidential election.

"In political terms," the paper said, "Russia's interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy."

This is complete nonsense. There is no evidence any votes were changed as a result of this so-called "interference."

The crime of the century is bad journalism based on anonymous sources who hide behind papers like the Post to spread their self-serving and partisan propaganda.

"This account of the Obama administration's response to Russia's interference is based on interviews with more than three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services," the Post said. "Most agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue."

One paragraph in particular tells you everything you know about the anonymous sources behind this story. "Those closest to Obama defend the administration's response to Russia's meddling," the Post said. Yes, indeed, those "closest to Obama" would certainly do so.

Then we're told that that "They believe that a series of warnings-including one that Obama delivered to Putin in September-prompted Moscow to abandon any plans of further aggression, such as sabotage of U.S. voting systems."

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for this dramatic statement. It's completely made up.

Remember, this is the same Obama who once assured Putin that after he won his re-election campaign in 2012, he would have "more flexibility" with the Russian leader and be able to offer more concessions.

Now, all of a sudden, Obama is rough and tough and gets things done with the Russian leader. What a joke.

The paper reported that "Obama confronted Putin directly during a meeting of world leaders in Hangzhou, China. Accompanied only by interpreters, Obama told Putin that ‘we knew what he was doing and [he] better stop or else,' according to a senior aide who subsequently spoke with Obama. Putin responded by demanding proof and accusing the United States of interfering in Russia's internal affairs."

Or else?

It sounds like the red line in Syria that Obama had warned the Syrian regime not to cross. But they crossed it anyway.

Obama's so-called "secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault" exists in the minds of Post reporters who are waging a not-so-secret struggle to rehabilitate the former president's disastrous foreign policy toward Russia and most of the rest of the world.

Let's not forget one more debacle-Obama's deal with Russian client state Iran to facilitate the regime's nuclear weapons program and world-wide terrorism.

That may end up being another crime of the century, on par with President Bill Clinton's deal with North Korea that was supposed to prevent the communist regime from getting its hands on nuclear weapons.

Speaking of North Korea, whose nuclear weapons program accelerated under Obama, hear the words of Otto Warmbier's father about his son being released after Trump took office: "I think the results speak for themselves."

Obama's "cautious and deliberate" approach was to let the young man languish in a North Korean prison while being tortured to near death.

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          Turning the U.S.-India Alignment into an Alliance   

"Our robust strategic partnership is such that it touches upon almost all areas of human endeavor....We consider the USA as our primary partner for India's social and economic transformation in all our flagship programs and schemes," proclaimed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 26. The venue was the joint press conference with President Donald Trump following their lengthy meeting at the White House. This is a sentiment that America must strengthen and build upon to contain the expanding ambitions of China.

Of course, diplomatic niceties prevented any actual public mention of the Communist regime as a common threat to the world's two largest democracies. Nor was China's ally Pakistan mentioned, even as the two leaders talked about defeating terrorism in the region. President Trump noted "Both our nations have been struck by the evils of terrorism, and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drives them. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism." In the case of India, terrorism has been linked directly to Pakistan which has been supporting an insurgency in Kashmir ever since that Muslim province was incorporated into India when the British Raj was partitioned in 1947.

Pakistan was founded as an Islamic state with the mission to unite all Muslims in the region. India was founded on a more tolerant, multicultural democratic standard and counts 175 million Muslims among its 1.3 billion citizens. In must be remembered that it was Pakistan that blocked a UN plebiscite on Kashmir's fate because it feared too many Muslims would vote to live in the more attractive society of India than in a militant regime. Pakistan failed in its bid to seize control of Kashmir but has continued to stir up jihadist movements in the province. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking to the U.S.-India Business Council on June 27, mentioned how "barbarians have struck on Indian soil too many times over the decades, including the horrific attacks in Mumbai nearly a decade ago, claiming the lives of more than 160 innocents, including six Americans." That attack was traced to Pakistan. Hours before Modi's arrival, the State Department imposed sanctions on Syed Salahuddin, the Pakistan-based leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, the main Kashmir terrorist group.

PM Modi stated, "Fighting terrorism and doing away with the safe shelters, sanctuaries, and safe havens will be an important part of our cooperation," clearly with Pakistan in mind; not only regarding Kashmir, but also Afghanistan. The U.S. and its coalition (which includes India, for whose contributions President Trump thanked Modi) cannot end the war in Afghanistan as long as the Taliban (and now ISIS) can lick their wounds and rebuild their forces in Pakistan; free to cross the border at times of their own choosing. 

The threat from China was alluded to when President Trump mentioned how Indian forces "will join together with the Japanese navy to take part in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the vast Indian Ocean." What links Japan and India is concern over Beijing's expansion across the Pacific Rim and into the Indian Ocean. Beijing's ambitious "Belt and Road" development initiative which is designed to impose a "common destiny" on Eurasia is opposed by both India and Japan. The Chinese plan will build on programs hat have already been underway in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, posing direct threats to Indian security.

The U.S. and Japan can and must counter the Chinese initiative by increasing their role in developing the Indian economy, which can truly be a "win-win" relationship. China's rise has been fueled by short-sighted American business firms willfully ignorant of the true nature of the Beijing regime. They have transferred technology and production capacity to a strategic rival of their home country. The pursuit of private profit without adequate supervision by a Washington establishment blinded by naive liberal hopes and corrupted by corporate cash has helped to create a threat Americans will have to face for decades to come. It would be a much better world if all the Western capital sent to China had gone to India instead. Trade is properly conducted among friends, not adversaries where the "gains from trade" are used to create menacing capabilities.

With the world's largest population, India presents a massive market for American goods of all kinds. President Trump, however, concentrated his remarks on energy and security. We are "looking forward to exporting more American energy to India as your economy grows, including major long-term contracts to purchase American natural gas." To the extent that imported gas replaces Indian coal, it will help New Delhi clean up the air pollution that makes its cities look as bad at those in China. VP Pence added nuclear power and clean coal to the list of energy sources the U.S. could help New Delhi develop. President Barack Obama had carried his "war on coal" overseas with a ban on any U.S. aid to the Indian coal industry. But India is not going to abandon its massive coal reserves; their use can, however, be improved.   

Modernizing India's military is central to the strategic alignment. VP Pence mentioned to the USIBC that "the United States will sell Sea Guardian UAVs, Apache attack helicopters, and C-17 transports to India." A larger program on the table is the sale of 126 fighter jets to India. The Lockheed F-16 "Viper" is the leading candidate, but the Saab JAS-39 "Gripen" is also in the running, though a strategic link to Sweden makes little sense in an Asian setting. India, however, is moving from being a consumer of military hardware to a producer, as any Great Power must do. Modi has a "make it in India" policy and Lockheed is willing to set up an F-16 production line there. The question is whether this will be considered "outsourcing" by the Trump administration. It should not be as long as the production is for Indian service and does not replace jobs in U.S. industry supplying the Pentagon. The F-16 is long out of production for the USAF. The new F-35 "Lightning II" is coming into service (also built by Lockheed).

Indian production should be seen as "market extension" which will create additional work for American factories and maintenance services, not only for this order of warplanes but for future orders of military equipment of many kinds as the strategic relationship deepens. It should be noted that the first European production line for the F-16 opened in 1978; so India is not asking for anything novel.

The need to offer "co-production" to win military contracts is a subject not often discussed in public debates over arms sales, but it is a part of many transactions. Offset arrangements can also involve local purchasing, subcontracting, investment, and technology-transfer requirements on U.S. exporters that benefit foreign firms in the purchasing country. The U.S. defense industry is the world's leader, but its comparative advantage does not yield the full returns economic textbooks promise because of real world practices like offsets. These are negotiated between foreign governments and corporations in virtually every deal. The state authorities have the greater leverage, as it is generally a buyer's market; but strategic considerations also play their part. Our officials must keep a close eye on such deals to keep a proper balance between risks and rewards to the U.S. defense industrial base.

India's offset requirements have been at the low end of the international scale. Caught between two allied nuclear powers, China and Pakistan, New Delhi needs to modernize its forces; but it also needs a domestic industrial infrastructure to support its armed services. This is why offsets, though generally banned in the commercial sector under the World Trade Organization, are allowed for national security reasons. What is truly important cannot be left to the "invisible hand"--- which means the hands of others.

President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are both nationalists in a dangerous world. As Modi put it, "I am sure that the convergence between my vision for a 'new India' and President Trump's vision for 'making America great again' will add new dimensions to our cooperation." Let us work to make it so in a positive way.

donate button pub dom ok


          Comentário sobre O que é em política direita e esquerda? por Marcio Rodrigues   
" Uma conclusão importante: é uma tolice dizer que não existe direita democrática ou esquerda democrática. Liberais democratas são, em princípio, democratas. Social-democratas são, em princípio, democratas." Perdoe-me, mas esta afirmação so' é possi'vel quando se abre-mão de ultrapassar a superfi'cie do que se ana'lisa, visto que se deixa de constatar que o Estado é constituido, organizado, particularmente no que se refere a Constituição e as leis, por e em função de atender aos interesses da classe dominante, no caso do capitalismo, a burguesia. Por ex., seja em um governo muito liberal, seja em uma social-democracia, ninguém é eleito sem dinheiro e sem o apoio midia'tico. E, como os detentores do capital e da mi'dia são os burgueses, além de serem eles mesmos os que definiram as regras da eleição (entre outras), DE FATO são eles que escolhem os que comandarão os Três Poderes. Enfim, é preciso superficialidade p dizer que existe democracia no capitalismo liberal ou social-democrata, ja' que o conceito de democracia não pode ser reduzido ao ato de votar. Como o senhor não é superficial, qualifico essa sua falha como um lapso. Outro pequeno problema em seu texto é o significado atribuido à "utopia" . Grosso modo, ele passa a ideia de que uma utopia jamais poderia tornar-se uma "topia". Ele coloca "utopia" como sinônimo de sonho, quando de fato a primeira exige uma base empi'rica, enquanto a segunda se contenta com o mundo das ideias : o avião foi uma utopia que virou topia, pular do décimo andar sacudindo os braços achando que vai voar, so' é possivel no sonho. Esta distinção é importante pq deixa claro que o comunismo é algo via'vel e possi'vel.
          Missed Blogging   
Hello All.

I can't believe that I wrote last over 14 weeks ago. It is so amazing how busy my life has become and it has also been so eventful.

I have missed blogging and reading other blogs but I also have been able to catch up with reading other paperback books and spending quality time with my family and friends. I have joined a women's Bible study group, and also have had the priviledge of teaching in a Women's wellness class and the bookshop and my husband's business is growing. It has not all been good news but I will not bore you with the not so good news because I trust God is taking care of the future and my path is in his hands.
I have done my blog round and seen some new ones and enjoyed my favorites ones.I hope to visit more often and continue to blog as often as I can.I have decided to ignore the power problems and the shameful show of the so called democratic governors and just want to focus on seeing my glass as half full and not half empty.

I hope for a better Nigeria and may the souls of Dana Airline victims RIP.

Hope to see you soon.
          Wyden questions contact between Medicaid director and Arkansas   
Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, is raising questions about talks between Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Dennis Smith, a Medicaid advisor to the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Verma had a private consulting firm that did work for Arkansas. Under an agreement entered when she took the federal Medicaid job last year, she was banned from speaking to Arkansas health officials without a written waiver from Health Secretary Tom Price. Press reports said she was supposed to speak with Smith in mid-March.

UPDATE: Arkansas Department of Human Services takes exception to Wyden's characterization. Spokeswoman Amy Webb said Verma "was not a consultant to the state and did not have a contract with us. I believe she did some consulting work for HPE, which is one of our contractors."

Her ethics disclousre form says she received income  fro "Hewlett Packard Arkansas Medicaid" and her agreement on seeking waivers for work with related partieis said:

“I provided consulting services to the States of Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, and-Virginia through SVC Inc. Pursuant to 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502(d), I will seek a written authorization to participate personally and substantially in particular matters involving specific parties in which I know the States of Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia are a party or represents a party.”

Wyden distributed a letter and news release:

“I am growing increasingly concerned that the Department of Health and Human Services is not effectively implementing its process to enforce Administrator Verma's ethics agreement and the standards of ethical conduct,” Wyden wrote in the letter to Elizabeth Fischmann, the Designated Agency Ethics Official for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “Arkansas is listed repeatedly in Administrator Verma's ethics materials as a state with which she has a covered relationship, and yet there does not appear to be any authorization for her participation in the March 17 call based upon the approved waivers released to and by OGE in response to its data call.”

This letter is the fourth that Sen. Wyden has sent to HHS regarding Verma’s compliance with ethical standards. To date, HHS has not supplied any substantive responses to these requests. This most recent letter was sent at a time when the Senate is considering close to $800 billion in cuts to the Medicaid program that Verma oversees.
Wyden noted that a call to Smith appeared on Verma's calendar. Smith was hired under a deal where he was made a faculty member at UAMS, but would be spending most of his time advising on Medicaid issues. Smith, who came to Arkansas following a controversial period in Wisconsin, is paid $294,000 by Arkansas.

Wyden said Verma got a waiver to speak with another Arkansas official three days before the March 17 call and she obtained a waiver for a later call as well, but none is reflected for the scheduled call with Smith.

Wyden has asked a series of questions about the communications, including why a waiver should be granted for Verma to speak with Arkansas officials.

Arkansas has an interest in winning approval from the CMS for a number of changes in the operation of the Medicaid expansion program. At the core of Wyden's letter: Should Arkansas be discussing such issues with someone it once employed (or had an arrangement with someone it employed)?

Verma was based in Indiana and had close ties to Mike Pence,, former Indiana governor.

PS: Coincidentally, Arkansas today submitted to CMS the waivers it needs to throw 60,000 people off the Medicaid expansion rolls by lowering the income qualification to 100 percent of poverty and imposing a work requirement.


          Trump's voter commission already stirring criticism   
Donald Trump's appointment of an "election integrity" commission including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach raised red flags from the start and its activities have already spurred more concerns that it's another vote suppression ploy.

Kobach has led efforts to suppress votes in Kansas and has participated in highly flawed efforts to investigate voter rolls nationally. He's a pal of Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin.

Now he's sent a letter to all 50 states in advance of the first meeting.

The information requested includes the names, addresses, birthdates, political party v(if recorded), last four digits of the voter's Social Security Number and which elections the voter has participated in since 2006, for every registered voter in the country.

Kobach, who is also Kansas' Republican secretary of state, did not say how the commission plans to use the data other than to help it "fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting."
If history repeats, he'll drum up some bogus matching lists, heavily flawed because, for example, the fact that five or six  people with the same name, say Jose Cruz or Roosevelt Washington to give you the idea of what Kobach hopes to find, exist in several states isn't evidence of voter fraud.

Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, boiled it down to this on Twitter:

The letter @KrisKobach1787 is sending to states confirms: Pence and Kobach are laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain & simple. 
The Kentucky secretary of state has told Kobach to stuff it.


I've asked Mark Martin's office if it intends to comply with Kobach's request. UPDATE: His spokesman, Chris Powell, says Arkansas has not received the letter.

I also sent an e-mail to former Democratic state Rep. David Dunn, now a lobbyist at the Arkansas Capitol, for his response to this. He was appointed to this panel thanks to friendship with Mark Martin. I wondered what he thought of the witch hunt in which he's been enlisted. No response as yet.

Talking Points Memo, in outlining how dubious this effort is, notes:

Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D), who released the copy of Kobach’s letter sent to her, issued a statement saying that, while they’ll be turning over the data, they’ll also be requesting from Kobach’s commission “any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the Commission is looking for.”

“This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering that the Vice Chair of the Commission, Kris Kobach, has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas,” Merrill said. “The courts have repudiated his methods on multiple occasions but often after the damage has been done to voters. Given Secretary Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this Commission.”
David Dunn, where are you?

The League of Women Voters' Chris Carson had this to say:Vir

“There is no justification for this giant fishing expedition. The Commission itself is a distraction from the real issue of voter suppression, and that efforts to ‘investigate voter fraud’ threaten our most fundamental voting rights.

“This most recent move by Mr. Kobach is an indicator that the so-called Election ‘Integrity’ Commission is not interested in facts, but false accusations and dangerous policy recommendations.

“State laws govern the release of voter registration information, and, at a minimum, election officials must follow those laws before releasing data. "
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said: "I have no intention of honoring this request." California, Massachusetts and Kentucky aren't going along either. UPDATE: Add Rhode Island. UPDATE: Add Indiana!

FURTHER UPDATE: Kobach says Kobach-led Kansas won't supply the Social Security numbers he's requested.

Mother Jones explains how this is a building block for more Republican vote suppression.

More from Talking Points Memo on this bad idea.

UPDATE: In late afternoon, Ari Berman says 18 states have refused to participate: CA, CT, IN, KY, MA, MN, NC, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, RI, TN, UT, VA, VT, WA

Good overview here including clueless comment from David Dunn. Who knew?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/trumps-voting-commission-asked-states-to-hand-over-election-data-theyre-pushing-back/2017/06/30/cd8f812a-5dce-11e7-9b7d-14576dc0f39d_story.html?utm_term=.ad618667ea23

Even Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said on national TV that this is not a good idea

          Trump nominates Cody Hiland to be U.S. attorney for eastern district   
As expected, Donald Trump has nominated Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland of Conway to be U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. He must be confirmed by the Senate.

Hiland's name was among nine U.S. attorney nominees put forward by Trump today, a second wave of appointments. He was known to be under consideration after FBI background checks began and meetings with U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman, both Republicans. Most of the 93 U.S. attorneys were fired or resigned after Trump took office. Career prosecutors are serving as interim leaders in both the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas, where former Democratic Rep. Chris Thyer and Conner Eldridge had served respectively in the Obama administration.

Prosecutors run now as non-partisans, but Hiland, who lost a judicial race last year, is a Republican regular. His prosecutor position covers Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties.

He's been a lawyer in private practice, a staff attorney at the Public Service Commission and former program director for the Arkansas Transitional Employment Board. He was a staff aide to Gov. Mike Huckabee and is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas the UALR Law School.

          Opponent for Rapert starts campaign tonight   
Sen. Jason Rapert, much in the news this week, won't pass the 2018 election without opposition.

Maureen Skinner, a Democrat, is beginning her campaign with an event from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight at the Brick Room in Conway. Facebook page here. Skinner, 46, who is a licensed psychological examiner in Conway, also has a campaign page. She's talking health care, jobs and education.

Skinner has never run for office before. She said the 2016 national election left her feeling "on edge" and with a belief that "somebody needed to do something." After participating in the women's march in Little Rock, she said she decided that something would be a run for office. Skinner, one of a class of six when she graduated from high school in Fox, continued her education at UCA. She emphasized: "I'm running for the Senate, not against Jason Rapert." She said he spent enough time talking about Jason Rapert.

          Democrats Caught Sabotaging Tea Party   
News Item...
             

I don’t like socialism and am definitlely opposed to anything other than a pact with the devil when it comes to the democratic party of the US, but right-wing disinformation campaigns are making my blood boil. This is not a major one, like the bs fuss the right is making … Continue reading

          The Never-Ending Battle Over Selecting Oklahoma's Most Powerful Judges   
Anti-abortion laws. A Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol. An overhaul of the workers’ compensation system. Controversial rejections of all or parts of these legislative actions by the Oklahoma Supreme Court – coupled with a push by national and state conservative groups – have led to a steady march of bills over the past decade that would alter the process for choosing state Supreme Court and Appeals courts justices. The 2016 legislative session was no exception. The Oklahoma House and Senate approved measures to change the way the state’s most powerful judges are selected, although none of the proposals became law or made it to the November ballot. The bills failed to pass because of several factors, including concern about over-politicizing the judicial selection process; disagreements between House and Senate Republicans; opposition by Democrats, and lobbying by the Oklahoma Bar Association. But if previous sessions going back to at least 2008 are any indication, similar
          John Reif Elected To Serve As OK Supreme Court New Chief Justice   
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has elected John Reif of Tulsa to serve as the high court's new chief justice, effective Jan. 1. The court announced the results of its elections on Tuesday. The nine-member court also elected Justice Douglas Combs of Shawnee as vice chief justice. Reif will replace Chief Justice Tom Colbert, who will rotate out of the chief justice position. Both Reif and Combs were appointed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court by Democratic Gov. Brad Henry. Reif was a longtime judge on the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals, and Combs is a former district judge for Pottawatomie County. The chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court typically rotates every two years. ____________________________________ KGOU produces journalism in the public interest, essential to an informed electorate. Help support informative, in-depth journalism with a donation online , or contact our Membership department.
          Another editorial…what do you think?   

(Attached below is the editorial from the June 29 Waterbury Republican-American.  What do you think?  Send me a comment at  Len.Suzio@cga.ct.gov , sign my “New Direction” petition at www.SenatorSuzio.com and please share this with CT Taxpayers!)

Connecticut budget

 Democrats’ risky strategy

Our June 19 editorial noted Connecticut House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, like many state Democrats, has portrayed legislative Republicans as naysayers incapable of making positive public-policy contributions.

Speaker Aresimowicz offered this criticism just before the legislature’s regular 2017 session adjourned June 7 without a 2017-19 budget.

The speaker has no credibility left to make this argument in the future.

He may have created a political problem for his party.

Legislative Republicans proposed a budget April 27. After plummeting revenues rendered it unbalanced, the GOP went back to the drawing board. The House and Senate Republican caucuses released separate, updated proposals May 16. Connecticut faces an approximately $5 billion deficit in the 2017-19 biennium.

After the legislature adjourned, lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had to figure out how to fund state government come July 1, the start of fiscal year 2017-18. A special legislative session was scheduled for today. Republicans hoped to bring their budgets up for votes.

June 27, Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Leonard A. Fasano, of North Haven, wrote to Speaker Aresimowicz and Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, on the matter. “Under the rules of special session, a budget bill or bill implementing the budget must be emergency certified, which requires the signature of the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore. … Therefore, I am asking for your approval as soon as possible so that a vote can be held on (the Senate Republican) budget,” he wrote. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, hoped “to force an up-or-down vote on the House Republican package,” the Republican-American reported June 28.

However, Speaker Aresimowicz refused to allow votes on any budget proposals – not the GOP’s budgets and not on Gov. Malloy’s “minibudget.”

Scheduling conflicts and dissension in the House Democratic ranks factored in the speaker’s decision.

Speaker Aresimowicz was criticized not only by Sen. Fasano and Rep. Klarides, but by Sen. Looney.

Come Saturday, Gov. Malloy almost certainly will have unilateral control of Connecticut’s finances until a budget is agreed upon.

The governor has unveiled an executive order that will “impose drastic spending cuts to local funding, hospitals and social services,” according to the Republican-American.

Sen. Looney, Rep. Klarides and Gov. Malloy himself have said gubernatorial-only control is a less than ideal scenario.

In the wake of this episode, it is hard for Speaker Aresimowicz to claim Republicans offer nothing positive.

Indeed, as Sen. Fasano noted, the speaker “has still not offered a complete state budget proposal.”

Additionally, if Gov. Malloy’s cuts prove as “draconian” as Sen. Looney predicts, the public should pin some of the blame for them on Speaker Aresimowicz.

That wouldn’t help Democrats during the 2018 legislative elections, when they will try to recover from their 2016 losses.

 


          “A dereliction of duty.”   

“A dereliction of duty.”

By Sen. Tony Hwang

We’re ready to vote on a budget.  We’re here at the State Capitol on behalf of state taxpayers.  We’re here to work.”

On June 29, I stood with Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats at the State Capitol to say exactly that.

Connecticut Senate Republicans have produced a detailed, line-by-line, thoughtful budget that has been thoroughly vetted by non-partisan analysts.

Our Senate Republican plan, which can be read at www.ctsenaterepublicans.com:

  • restores cuts to town aid
  • restores cuts to local education funding
  • restores cuts to hospitals
  • does not harm non-profit organizations
  • reduces the size of government
  • makes necessary changes to state employee benefits
  • protects core services for seniors, the disabled, children and our most at-risk residents.

Stanley Black & Decker’s CEO said he prefers the Senate Republican approach “because it goes much further toward eliminating inappropriate practices related to public employee pensions and is less punitive to towns and municipalities.”

Unfortunately, Senate Republican plan never received a vote prior to the end of the fiscal year.

The Democrat Speaker of the House, who controls the House legislative agenda, refused to allow votes on any budget proposals.

This in my view, is a dereliction of duty.

This is failure.

The Hartford Courant described it as “abrogation of a serious responsibility.”

And I wholeheartedly agree.

 So, what happens now?

Gov. Malloy will have unilateral control of Connecticut’s finances until a budget is agreed upon.

 The governor has unveiled an executive order which will “impose drastic spending cuts to local funding, hospitals and social services.”

Vulnerable people will be hurt.

Pain will be inflicted.

This didn’t have to happen.

You, the taxpayers, sent me to Hartford to work on your behalf and to be your advocate.

Every day, I try my very best to do my job and be your voice in Hartford.

On June 29, I showed up at the State Capitol to do exactly that.  We were blocked from doing so.

And that’s truly a shame.

What can you do?

Call the House Democrats Office at 860 240-8500.  Tell them how you feel.

Tell them to do their job.

Send me your comments at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov .

 

 

*Sen. Hwang represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport.  On the web: www.SenatorHwang.com .

 


          Another editorial…what do you think?   

(Attached below is the today’s editorial in the Waterbury Republican-American.  What do you think?  Send me a comment atEric.Berthel@cga.ct.gov and please share this with CT Taxpayers!)

Connecticut budget

Democrats’ risky strategy

Our June 19 editorial noted Connecticut House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, like many state Democrats, has portrayed legislative Republicans as naysayers incapable of making positive public-policy contributions.

Speaker Aresimowicz offered this criticism just before the legislature’s regular 2017 session adjourned June 7 without a 2017-19 budget.

The speaker has no credibility left to make this argument in the future.

He may have created a political problem for his party.

Legislative Republicans proposed a budget April 27. After plummeting revenues rendered it unbalanced, the GOP went back to the drawing board. The House and Senate Republican caucuses released separate, updated proposals May 16. Connecticut faces an approximately $5 billion deficit in the 2017-19 biennium.

After the legislature adjourned, lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had to figure out how to fund state government come July 1, the start of fiscal year 2017-18. A special legislative session was scheduled for today. Republicans hoped to bring their budgets up for votes.

June 27, Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Leonard A. Fasano, of North Haven, wrote to Speaker Aresimowicz and Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, on the matter. “Under the rules of special session, a budget bill or bill implementing the budget must be emergency certified, which requires the signature of the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore. … Therefore, I am asking for your approval as soon as possible so that a vote can be held on (the Senate Republican) budget,” he wrote. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, hoped “to force an up-or-down vote on the House Republican package,” the Republican-American reported June 28.

However, Speaker Aresimowicz refused to allow votes on any budget proposals – not the GOP’s budgets and not on Gov. Malloy’s “minibudget.”

Scheduling conflicts and dissension in the House Democratic ranks factored in the speaker’s decision.

Speaker Aresimowicz was criticized not only by Sen. Fasano and Rep. Klarides, but by Sen. Looney.

Come Saturday, Gov. Malloy almost certainly will have unilateral control of Connecticut’s finances until a budget is agreed upon.

The governor has unveiled an executive order that will “impose drastic spending cuts to local funding, hospitals and social services,” according to the Republican-American.

Sen. Looney, Rep. Klarides and Gov. Malloy himself have said gubernatorial-only control is a less than ideal scenario.

In the wake of this episode, it is hard for Speaker Aresimowicz to claim Republicans offer nothing positive.

Indeed, as Sen. Fasano noted, the speaker “has still not offered a complete state budget proposal.”

Additionally, if Gov. Malloy’s cuts prove as “draconian” as Sen. Looney predicts, the public should pin some of the blame for them on Speaker Aresimowicz.

That wouldn’t help Democrats during the 2018 legislative elections, when they will try to recover from their 2016 losses.

 

 


          Wow…have you seen this Hartford Courant Editorial?   

SqCapitolwithRays

(Please read and share the following July 28th  Hartford Courant editorial for an update on the CT state budget.  Send me your comments at Heather.Somers@cga.ct.gov)

Mr. Aresimowicz, Get The Democrats To The Capitol

It’s on you, Joe Aresimowicz.

For many months, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives has known that the state was facing a multibillion-dollar problem. He knew legislators would have to make painful cuts and find creative and fair ways to raise revenues if they had a prayer of solving it.

And they had a deadline. The fiscal year ends Friday.

But now, after mustering zero workable solutions over the past few months and with only hours to go, Mr. Aresimowicz has refused to call for a vote on a reasonable stop-gap budget offered by the governor and supported by the Senate‘s Republican and Democratic leaders.

Why? Because, Mr. Aresimowicz said, a temporary solution isn’t good enough — but also because the Democrats are on vacation.

v”I believe my members are less than likely to hop on planes and leave their families at vacation places all over this country and other countries to come in and do a temporary fix,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

He refused to identify for The Courant those Democratic state representatives who chose to go on vacation at a critical time in one of the most serious budget crises the state has ever faced. Leaving town this week is a stunning dereliction of duty.

Mr. Aresimowicz and the rest of the House Democratic caucus are instead choosing to accept spending cuts so drastic that basic social safety nets for some of the state’s most vulnerable will be lost. Cuts to town aid will be so deep that local officials might have to recast their entire budgets. The move also puts the state’s shaky credit rating at further risk.

Apparently realizing that the legislature is incapable of finding its own elbows, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy earlier this week wisely offered legislators the option of passing a “mini-budget” for the next quarter that would allow for some new revenue (much of it already earmarked for certain programs but not yet spent). Without a budget, the governor can’t raise revenue or shift funds. He can only slash millions, cutting services for the sick and the poor and eviscerating school funding grants to towns.

The vote on the mini-budget would have to take place Thursday or Friday. If nothing passes by the end of Friday, the governor’s executive order budget goes into effect.

If Mr. Aresimowicz continues to refuse to call for a vote, the impacts will be felt immediately. It will eliminate services to some clients of the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Rental assistance will be slashed by millions. Funding for summer youth jobs will be completely eliminated.

School funding will see the biggest cuts if the legislature can’t come up with a budget before the fall. How big? Take West Hartford. In the last fiscal year, the city received $20.9 million in state funding for schools. Under the governor’s proposed executive order, West Hartford would receive $4.3 million. Simsbury, which received about $6 million last year, would get zero dollars.

Do the math.

The most frustrating thing is that through these past few months, the legislature wasted time debating and amending bills that didn’t stand a chance of becoming law, and leadership knew it. Mr. Aresimowicz placated members of his caucus by entertaining floor debate on bills such as marijuana legalization that were soon enough left to rot.

How could House Democrats have gone months without coming up with a workable, clear, full-spectrum solution to the state’s $5 billion budget shortfall? Did they not realize that that was their job? Or did their own internal politicking get in the way?

One Democratic effort to fashion a budget failed spectacularly in April when a 262-page detailed spending plan couldn’t even get a vote in the Democrat-controlled appropriations committee. In May, Democrats offered a one-page sketch of a plan, along with a spreadsheet containing more details. Since then, nary a peep from the party nominally in control of the legislature.

Others had their priorities in order.

The Senate and House Republicans, and Mr. Malloy, came up with actual spending plans. Their respective strengths and weaknesses are debatable (Mr. Malloy’s budget director Ben Barnes told The Courant’s editorial board that the House Republican’s plan contained “large pieces of baloney”), but that’s the point — they have offered something to debate.

What have House Democrats offered?

Shamefully little.

And now they refuse to vote on a measure that would at least keep some basic protections in place.

Mr. Barnes warned that if the legislature refused to vote on the mini-budget, there would be a “significant risk” of another bond rating downgrade from Wall Street. “They are paying close attention to what we are doing,” he said.

Mr. Aresimowicz’s failure to call for a vote, to say nothing of his failure to craft a complete budget proposal that was at least palatable to his own caucus, is an abrogation of a serious responsibility, and the consequences for the people of Connecticut are going to be profound.

It’s mystifying how legislators could be so cavalier about solving the budget problem, the most important thing they have to do.

Connecticut’s Democratic leaders need to ask themselves: Whom do you serve?

Mr. Aresimowicz, call for a vote.


          Why South Africa returns to its darkest moment??   
In June 1961,African national congress (ANC)the current Republic of southouse Africa ‘s governing social democratic political party ‘s executive, considered Nelson Mandela ‘s suggestion on the use of violent tactics and agreed that those members who wished to involve them in Mandela ‘s campaign would not be stopped from doing so, and this let to...
          Sen. Cory Booker On Health Care And The Democrats' Future   
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: With Republican senators delaying a vote on their bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, many lawmakers on the left now see an opportunity, among them New Jersey's Cory Booker. Just outside the Capitol the other evening, Senator Booker and Congressman John Lewis were chatting about health care. And before long, a crowd gathered around with concerns of their own. CORY BOOKER: And it was just a beautiful night. There was something magical about it in the sense that it was spontaneous, but so authentic in the sense that I think you could stand on any street corner in America and you're going to have people walking by who have been touched by Medicaid and aspects of this bill that would threaten the gains that they've made or one of their family members have made. INSKEEP: Rachel Martin talked with Senator Booker about whether the Senate Democrats and Republicans can work together. RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Where do you see common
          With The Senate's Health Care Vote Delayed, What's Next For Democrats?   
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: To health care now - both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are complaining that they aren't working together. Here's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking on the Senate floor yesterday. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) MITCH MCCONNELL: It's unfortunate that our Democratic colleagues refuse to work with us in a serious way to comprehensively address Obamacare's failures in the seven years since they passed it. MARTIN: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had this response. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) CHUCK SCHUMER: We Democrats are genuinely interested in finding a place where our two parties can come together on health care. MARTIN: So what is the next move for the Democrats? Tom Perez is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He's with us in the studio. Thanks for coming in this morning. TOM PEREZ: Always a pleasure. MARTIN: Do congressional Democrats really want to work with Republicans to try to
          Stephanie Murphy and Val Demings just voted for an incredibly terrible anti-immigration bill   
Yesterday, Florida congresswomen Stephanie Murphy and Val Demings were among 24 Democrats who voted for an extremely controversial bill that only boosts Donald Trump's anti-immigration crackdown.

On Thursday, June 29, HR 3004, also known as Kate's Law, passed the House with a margin of 257-167.…
          Comment on Anatomy of a Campaign: Interview with Alex Nunns, author of The Candidate by Rod   
" more political capital could have been expended on trying to reform the party" This has to be a top priority. The party must move away from the Blairite model wherein a diminished memership served only as cheerleaders for the leader. We may be fans of Corbyn but we must demand democratic rights within the LP. There should be no repeat of the this year's process where anti-Corbyn candidates, chosen during Miliband's tenure, were foisted upon CLPs against the wishes of many CLPs. Enough is enough. If we don't get democratic reform, allowing the Party to properly reflect the country outside the Westminster bubble, the LP will drift into the political oblivion that enveloped Scottish Labour under the leadership of Jim Murphy.
          Can The Trump Brand Win State Elections, Too?   
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvquFgyOLaA The front-runner in Virginia's Republican gubernatorial primary this year, Ed Gillespie, is campaigning on what traditionally would be considered an impressive political resume: former Republican National Committee Chairman, presidential adviser, lobbyist, and, in 2014, unsuccessful Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. In one campaign ad , Gillespie is seen alongside former President George W. Bush, and promises voters, "I know firsthand how the system works." That, of course, is the same political system that many voters repudiated by electing President Trump, who narrowly won Virginia's GOP primary in 2016. Next Tuesday's Virginia's gubernatorial primary is serving as an early test of how strong Trump's brand is at the state level. The state's primaries also offer a look at how intra-party struggles brought to light by the 2016 campaign are playing out among Republicans and Democrats . One of Gillespie's two rivals for the Republican
          Not Merely 'Anti-Trump,' The Resistance Seeks To Re-normalize America   

Since the Democrats lost the special Congressional election in Georgia last week---the fourth they've lost since Donald Trump's victory in November---a new media narrative is emerging: that Democrats need to find a theme more compelling than just being anti-Trump or echoing the anti-Trump resistance . But the resistance is not merely a negative force, rising against Trump for opposition's sake only.


          2017 Arkansas Times Academic All-Star Team   
Meet the best and brightest high school students in the state.

The class of 2017, our 23rd, is made up of athletes, coders, budding politicians and brain experts. There's rarely a B on the transcripts of these students — in not just this, their senior year, but in any year of their high school careers.

Back in 1995, we created the Academic All-Star Team to honor what we then called "the silent majority — the kids who go to school, do their homework (most of it, anyway), graduate and go on to be contributing members of society." Too often, we argued then, all Arkansans heard about young people was how poorly they were faring. Or, when students did get positive attention, it came for athletic achievement.

As you read profiles of this year's All-Stars, it should be abundantly clear that good things are happening in Arkansas schools and there are many academic achievers who deserve to be celebrated. You should get a good idea, as well, of how these stellar students are busy outside school, with extracurricular activities, volunteer work, mission activities and more.

They'll be honored this week at a ceremony at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with plaques and $250 cash awards.

Many college plans listed here are not set in stone, as students await information on scholarships and acceptances.

CAROLINE COPLIN-CHUDY
Age: 17
Hometown: North Little Rock
High School: Mount St. Mary Academy
Parents: (guardian) Dennis Chudy
College plans: Duke University

Caroline Coplin-Chudy has a 4.4 grade point average — high enough to rank second in her class at Mount St. Mary Academy — and lost her mother to leukemia during her sophomore year, something she told us came to be a source of inspiration and drive during her academic development. "It was a big adjustment. After my mom passed away, it was just my stepdad. It's a weird realization coming to the idea that both of your parents are gone, and it's just you. ... I still think of her every single day. She motivates me to do well in everything, because my whole life I wanted to make her proud." Caroline is president of Mount St. Mary's Investment Club and of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions). She's also been a regular volunteer for several years at the Little Rock Compassion Center, whose recovery branch provides meals and health resources to people suffering from addiction. Caroline said she found healing from her own grief in the friendships she forged there. As the recipient of a Questbridge scholarship, described by Caroline's guidance counselor and nominator Amy Perkins as a program where lower-income students qualify for tuition to schools with which they "match" via an early decision process, Caroline will attend Duke University on a full scholarship. "I'm going to study biology and psych, with a minor in Spanish. My plan is to work at the Duke Center for Addiction [Science and Technology] helping people with drug addictions overcome that sort of thing. It's something that I've had experience with, watching my family go through things like that."

AXEL NTAMATUNGIRO
Age: 17
Hometown: Pine Bluff
High School: Subiaco Academy
Parents: Sixte Ntamatungiro and Sylvana Niciteretse
College plans: Rice University, neuroscience

Axel Ntamatungiro grew up among books and maps dispersed throughout his home that "paint[ed] the walls with nuanced shades of knowledge." It shows. Not often can a high school senior explain, as Axel does, his love for studying the brain so easily. "Neuroscience is basically a neuron turning on and off," he said. "The fact that you have billions of these combinations that lead to consciousness, that's unbelievable." To continue learning about the mind, Axel is headed to Rice University on a full ride as a QuestBridge scholar. Maybe medical school or graduate school after that. Axel said his parents taught him a "humble intellectualism" that helped him understand "the irrationality of life." They always told him: "Work hard, but you need to realize you don't always get what you deserve." And life has been, at times, irrational and difficult for his family. Axel was the only member of his family born in the United States — in Little Rock in 1999. The rest migrated from Burundi in the early 1990s. They stayed here as the Rwandan genocide inflicted incredible damage in the area. That past was never hidden from Axel. "Instead of avoiding my questions, my parents level-headedly answered [them], telling me about Belgian colonialism, Hutu-Tutsi tension and the systematic poverty afflicting Burundi," he said. Maybe that is why Axel has never been afraid to ask big questions. He said it also helped to have a diverse group of friends who taught him new things. At his cafeteria table for lunch are kids from all over: Nigeria, Fort Smith, Japan, Bentonville and Russia. Everyone's small stories add to a global perspective, something bigger from something small, kind of like those neurons.

JADE DESPAIN
Age: 18
Hometown: Springdale
High School: Haas Hall Academy (Fayetteville)
Parents: Brenan and Tiffany DeSpain
College plans: U.S. Naval Academy, nuclear engineering

For Jade DeSpain, the question, "Where's your hometown?" isn't necessarily as straightforward as it seems. The National Merit semifinalist, swimming star and Quiz Bowler spent much of her childhood in Beijing, where her parents — both fluent in Mandarin — taught her Chinese concurrently with English (and where, she notes, she acquired an "incredible prowess with chopsticks.") "We've moved around so much that I don't really have a 'hometown,' but Springdale is the closest I've ever gotten," she said. She's made her impact there, too, tutoring students free of charge through her volunteer work with the M&N Augustine Foundation and putting in time at the Arkansas Council for the Blind and the Springdale Animal Shelter. Jade is ranked second in her class, and her high school transcript is full of aced courses in trigonometry, physics and calculus. She's also the co-founder of Haas Hall Academy's coding club, so a career in nuclear energy development — Jade's field of choice — isn't just an aspiration; it's the plan. "I have a deep appreciation for nature," she told us, citing Devil's Den State Park as a spot to which she feels closely connected, and stressing the importance of preserving natural spaces and developing more long-term options for sustainable energy. On Christmas Day 2016, Jade checked her email to find that she'd attained something she'd wanted as early as age 12: acceptance to the U.S. Naval Academy. There, she'll major in nuclear engineering and complete her five mandatory post-Academy years in the Navy, after which she hopes to acquire a Ph.D. in the field.

AVERY ELLIOTT
Age: 18
Hometown: Cabot
High school: Cabot High School
Parents: Dan and Melissa Elliott
College plans: University of Arkansas, medicine

Though many of our All-Stars seem destined from birth for academic greatness, there is the occasional inspiring All-Star who has had to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. One of those is Cabot High School's Avery Elliott, who was born with nystagmus, a condition that causes involuntary eye movements that can make it hard for sufferers to concentrate and learn. Though it's hard to imagine it now, when she was in elementary school Avery found herself falling further and further behind her classmates in reading because of her condition. "That was difficult," she said. "I was behind schedule until about third or fourth grade. I would have to go home and really work with my parents to keep up with the rest of the class." Even though she struggled early on, Avery said that, in a way, the nystagmus contributed to her success and gave her a direction to follow. "I had to learn to really study even outside of school," she said. "I learned some very good study habits. But I think it also really affected where I wanted to go as far as my career. ... I really learned that a medical team can not only dispense medicine, but can really affect someone's life." A National Merit finalist who has volunteered extensively with Special Olympics and already completed 43 hours of college-level coursework, Avery has been awarded the University of Arkansas Fellowship. She plans to study medicine at UAMS after completing her undergrad degree, then practice in Arkansas. That goal has always pushed her to succeed academically. "I wanted to go into the medical field from an early age," she said, "so I knew starting out in high school that I needed to make very good grades in order to get where I needed to. I had to really learn the material, rather than just trying to ace a test."

JARED GILLIAM
Age: 17
Hometown: Cabot
High school: Cabot High School
Parents: Dan and LeAnne Gilliam
College plans: University of Arkansas, engineering

When most young people say they want to change the world, it's easy to believe that's just pie-in-the-sky thinking by someone who hasn't yet been through the Academy of Hard Knocks. When Jared Gilliam says he wants to change the world, however, there's a good chance he might actually pull it off. Jared even has a plan: He'll change the world through engineering. A National Merit finalist and AP scholar with a GPA of 4.18 and a perfect score of 36 on the ACT, Jared is well placed to do just that. A musician who plays percussion with the Cabot High Marching Band, Jared said his favorite subject in school is math. "I think I'm mostly interested in engineering because I've always been sort of a problem-solver," he said. "I've enjoyed math and science, working through things and finding solutions to everyday problems. This year, I've been in robotics, so we've spent time working on a robot to perform various tasks. I've enjoyed that a lot. I think engineering is where my ability would best be used." He'll attend the University of Arkansas, which has offered him the Honors College Fellowship. He said the drive to excel academically has always been a part of his life. "I've grown up being encouraged to do well, and I guess I have my parents to thank for that and all my teachers," he said. "I think knowing that I have the ability to do all of this, I feel compelled to do what I can to make a difference. I think life would be pretty boring if I didn't go out there and do all the things I do. I don't think I could settle for not being successful."

BENJAMIN KEATING
Age: 18
Hometown: Fort Smith
High School: Southside High School
Parents: Drs. Bill and Janice Keating
College plans: Undecided

If you were looking for a ringing endorsement of Ben Keating's character, you'd need to look no further than Amy Slater, the guidance counselor who nominated him for our Academic All-Stars roster and who said of Ben, "He is all the things I hope my son turns out to be. ... He really thinks about things, and he practices the trumpet and piano for hours a day. It's crazy, his dedication." Ben probably had something to prove here; he admits to some skepticism on the part of his mother when he announced he'd be pursuing a career in music. He's certainly proved his mettle; Ben is band president at Southside, was a principal trumpet for the 2017 National Youth Honor Orchestra, first chair for Southside's Wind Symphony and for the All-State Jazz Band and was ranked in the top-tier bands for All-State Band and All-State Orchestra each year from 2014-16. The accolades go on and on: Ben has received a Young Artist Award from the International Trumpet Guild, a Gold Medal from the National Piano Guild and superior ratings from the National Federation of Music Clubs competitions for over a decade. He plays for the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra and as a volunteer musician for the Fort Smith Community Band. Ben is still deciding where to attend college, but wherever he goes, he hopes to continue playing with an orchestra. Eventually, he wants to teach at the university level. "Ultimately," he wrote, "I want to use my passion to unite people of all different races, backgrounds and cultures. In today's society that is politically and culturally divided, it is more important than ever to share the universal language of music."

KATHERINE HAHN
Age: 17
Hometown: Hindsville
High School: Huntsville High School
Parents: Shannon Hahn
College plans: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, biochemical engineering

Katherine Hahn is ranked first in her class at Huntsville High School, which she attends because her hometown of Hindsville is too small to support its own school system. The population of Hindsville is "about 75 people," she told us. At Huntsville High, Katherine plays bass drum in the marching band and marimba/xylophone in the concert band and runs with the Huntsville cross-country team. Her real passion, though, is science. "I think I've always wanted to go to a college that was science-based and research-based," she told us. Her high school principal, Roxanne Enix, noted her own surprise when Katherine announced that she'd take 10 credits her senior year, instead of the recommended eight. "I thought she had lost her mind," Enix stated. Those credits, over half of which are in AP classes, are what Katherine hopes have prepared her for the rigorous workload at MIT. Aiming for a career in pharmaceutical development, Katherine plans to study biochemical engineering, something she said resonated personally with her as a result of her mother's struggle with skin cancer. "Biology helps me understand why medicine does the things it does," Katherine told us. "Whenever I first started out, I wanted to do environmental stuff," she said, but turned her attention to drug delivery systems after observing so many friends and loved ones battling cancer. "I want to help stop people from being scared of losing people," she explained. Katherine, a native of Tahlequah, Okla., who moved to Arkansas around fifth grade, has served on the Madison County Health Coalition as Youth Leader and was named Student of the Year in 2017 by the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce and Huntsville High School.

GEORGIANA BURNSIDE
Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
High school: Little Rock Christian Academy
Parents: Bob and Ann Burnside
College plans: Stanford University, biology and public policy

When this reporter mentioned to friends at UAMS that she'd just spoken to an amazingly poised, optimistic and intelligent young woman with a spinal cord injury, they said in unison, "You mean Georgiana Burnside." Her reputation as a teenager who at 16 was paralyzed from the waist down in a snow skiing accident but who considers the event a "blessing" no doubt goes further than UAMS, all the way to Denver's Craig Hospital, where she spent "the most memorable two months in my life," she said, and where she returns to continue her rehabilitation. What is a spinal cord injury? She answers that it is a) a life changed in a split second, b) finding out that a bad attitude is the true disability, c) a time to show off wheelchair tricks, and d) spontaneous moments of unfortunate incontinence. In her essay for the Arkansas Times, Georgiana writes, "my physical brokenness has developed wholeness in my heart about the capacity life holds for individuals regardless of their disabilities." In a phone interview, Georgiana, once a figure skater, talked about her work with Easter Seals, fundraisers for Craig Hospital, and giving talks and testimony about her faith. Georgiana has regained the ability to walk with hiking sticks and leg braces, thanks to the strength in her quads. And, thanks to support from the High Fives Foundation in Truckee, Calif., which sponsors athletes with injuries and which has paid for some of her rehabilitation, Georgiana returned to the slopes over spring break, skiing upright with the aid of long forearm equipment. At Stanford, she'll study to be a doctor, with a goal to return to Craig Hospital as a physician who'll treat other injured youths who, though they may have, like Georgiana, at first believed their life was over, will learn they have "a unique role ... enabling the advancement of society."

MITCHELL HARVEY
Age: 17
Hometown: North Little Rock
High School: North Little Rock High School
Parents: David and Susan Harvey
College plans: Likely Mississippi State University, chemical engineering

Mitchell Harvey is a big fan of the periodic table. "The elements are amazing little things," he wrote in his Academic All-Star essay. "They make up everything, yet we hardly see them in their pure form in everyday life." Mitchell decided they needed more exposure, so he started collecting examples of the elements and taking them to school for his peers and teachers to see. He extracted helium from an abandoned tank on the side of the road. He found zinc in wheel weights, grew crystals of copper with electrolysis and made bromine, which he describes as "a blood-red liquid that fumes profusely," from a "crude" homemade distillation setup and pool chemicals. Though you can buy sodium readily, Mitchell made his by melting drain cleaner (sodium hydroxide) with a blowtorch and then passing a current through it, separating the mixture into sodium metal, oxygen and water. His parents were OK with the procedure, he says, because he wore a Tyvek suit, three pairs of gloves, safety goggles and a face shield. While on a college visit in California last summer, Mitchell toured Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and was impressed by the large periodic table display exhibit there. So he decided to build one for North Little Rock High. He got money from the school's alumni group, the Wildcat Foundation, to pay for the supplies necessary to construct the 9-foot-by-6-foot display. He hopes to have it completed in the next two weeks and fill it with examples of elements he has collected, though he may need additional funding to pay for other elements. No. 1 in a class of 687, Mitchell scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. He's also an Eagle Scout, and led a project to plant 800 native hardwood seedlings at Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park. After college, Mitchell said, he might start his own waste remediation business. "The business model I would be going for would be taking some byproduct that's hazardous and turning it into something useful."

CARSON MOLDER
Age: 18
Hometown: Mabelvale
High school: Bryant High SCHOOL
Parents: Kevin and Ruby Molder
College plans: University of Arkansas

Not everybody plays the mellophone and likes to draw up better interstate exchanges, but Carson Molder does both. The University of Arkansas Honors College-bound student, No. 1 in his class, likes to create three-dimensional schemes in his head, and has been creating road designs since he was young. But as a musician who plays the French horn in his school's orchestra and the mellophone in the Legacy of Bryant marching band, and who has won a band scholarship in addition to his Honors College reward to the UA, he said that one day he may be an audio engineer. "I'm going to put things together and see what sticks," he said of his future. Meanwhile, Carson said the internet has been his Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, taking him to new places that he otherwise could not get to. "I can count on my hands the number of times I have set foot outside Arkansas," Carson wrote in an essay for the Arkansas Times. But with the internet, "I can gaze into the redwood forests of California and the skyscrapers of New York City without leaving my desk." Without the internet, he said in a phone interview, "I would not be at the top of my class." Carson added, "It's not going to replace going out and visiting these things, but if you're a kid and don't have the money to go out, you can visit Yellowstone." Carson, who describes himself as "really ambitious," is looking forward to studying with Dr. Alan Mantooth, the director of the UA National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission. The UA, he said, "will provide me the tools" he'll need to succeed in graduate school, which he hopes will be Stanford University.

OLIVIA LANGER
Age: 18
Hometown: Jonesboro
High school: Brookland High School
Parents: Kelly Webb and Jonathan Langer
College plans: University of California, Santa Barbara, chemistry

You might think that a student who is No. 1 in her class and a National Merit finalist with nary a B on her high school transcript might not consider one of her greatest achievements her selection as her high school's drum major three years in a row. But here's the thing: Schoolwork comes easy to Olivia Langer. "I never had to work hard," she told us. In fact, her style of learning is "conversation-based," she said; she enjoys "debate without argument." But music was different: "I struggled at points, and had to put in extra work to be good." Her selection as drum major was "something I know I've worked for," she said, and she has enjoyed the responsibilities that come with it. "I like to take care of people. The band calls me band mom," she added. Beside numerous academic awards, Olivia also earned a 2017 state Horatio Alger scholarship for students who have overcome great obstacles. Hers, Olivia said, was financial: She's always had a place to stay and food to eat, but she hasn't been able to afford academic programs. "Honestly, I wasn't able to visit any of the colleges I applied to," she said. So she will see the UC Santa Barbara campus for the first time when she arrives this fall. She's considering a double major in chemistry and anthropology; she's interested in the evolutionary side of anthropology, and plans to seek graduate and post-graduate degrees.

REBECCA PARHAM
Age: 18
Hometown: Alma
High School: Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts
Parents: Eileen and Rick Parham
College plans: University of Arkansas or Hendrix College

On a visit to Hanamaki, Japan, with her school, Rebecca Parham noticed that once a month all the citizens would clean the front of their homes and shops. Folks would give each other gifts, too. "It was clear people tended to think for the whole," she said. "I thought that was really nice." An avid chemist, Rebecca did not just improve her Japanese on the trip, she brought those lessons of helping the community back to Arkansas. Her work has been at the intersection of heady science and community impact. In her robotics club, she noticed that girls were less likely to participate. "I decided that was not OK," she said. So, she designed a day with LEGO kits to encourage women to pursue STEM education. That desire to make an impact goes beyond school, too. For her senior project, Rebecca designed a test for homebuyers to see if meth had been cooked on their property (yes, meth). Her parents, on hearing of this project choice, asked her to "please explain a little bit further ... ." Here's the gist: The method of meth production in rural areas has shifted to something called the Birch reduction; older testing kits would no longer work. But Rebecca thought she could produce one that could. She designed a flame test. It finds lithium compounds left behind. The process of invention was "definitely frustrating," Rebecca said, but you "learn things you never thought of before." Rebecca did not plan to spend senior year in her dorm late at night "searching online" how to identify meth production, but she has a driving curiosity toward science and how it "connects to the world." She hopes to work in renewable energy — to be part of the global community, from Japan to Arkansas — making the world a nice place in which to live.

GRANT ROBINSON
Age: 18
Hometown: Searcy
High school: Searcy High School
Parents: Eric and Lisa Robinson College plans: University of Arkansas

Grant Robinson's father is a cardiologist, and Grant long figured he would follow in his dad's footsteps. But now he's not so sure. Last summer, he was selected, among thousands of applicants from around the world, to participate in a Stanford University summer engineering program. He got to experience a taste of college life, to take advantage of Stanford's decked-out labs and to tour the area to see results of civil engineering. The most memorable part of the program? Grant's small group built a Rube Goldberg machine — a complicated gadget that performs a simple task in a convoluted way — that, by Grant's estimation, was "the most complex and aesthetically pleasing" in the program. It included an electromagnet the group handmade and chemical reactions triggered by the machine. Grant's academic achievements are the byproduct of a natural curiosity. He said he spends what little free time he has exploring YouTube, trying to figure out the way the world works. Another influence: His father, who pulled himself out of poverty to become a doctor, has always instilled in him the importance of hard work. The message clearly stuck. Grant is second in his class of 263, with a 4.27 GPA. He scored a 35 on the ACT. He's a Presidential Scholar. His classmates voted him most likely to receive the Nobel Prize. He also participated in Project Unify (now known as Unified Champion Schools), an effort by the Special Olympics to get young people with and without special needs to come together for activities. Grant helped plan a basketball tournament as part of the project. In the fall, he'll be rooting on the Razorbacks at the University of Arkansas.  

JOHN SNYDER
Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
High school: Little Rock Christian Academy
Parents: Jill and Steve Snyder
College plans: Cornell University, industrial and labor relations

Whatever you were doing by your senior year in high school, chances are you probably hadn't already authored a book, much less a book on the complicated intersection of taxation and politics. John Snyder has, though. His book, "The Politics of Fiscal Policy," explores the political aspects of economics, including the pros and cons of various governmental tax schemes and their effect on government spending. It's for sale on Amazon right now. "It's pretty concise," John said, "but I wanted a way to express all my ideas in economic terms. That was a great way to do that." A history buff who serves as vice president of his class, John has a stunning 4.49 GPA and is ranked first in his class of 129. Though he wanted to be a lawyer when he was younger, his plan now is to go into investment banking. "Ultimately I want to have my own hedge fund — this thing called an activist hedge fund — and eventually I want to be actively involved in politics, whether that's in the midst of my business career or after ... . I'd love to run for public office one day." At Cornell University, John will be studying industrial and labor relations, a field that marries his love of multiple subjects. "Basically it ties in business, law, economics and history all into sort of one degree," he said. "You can do limitless things [with the degree]. Some people go into law school, some go into banking, some go to politics. That's why I chose that degree." John said his philosophy is that we have only a limited amount of time on earth, and so we should try to make the most of our lives. "I think there are a lot of things I can do to change the way things currently are in society, whether it's related to business or in academia or public policy," he said. "If I don't play a role in that and I'm not striving to do my best, I would feel like I'm wasting my potential."

PRESTON STONE
Age: 18
Hometown: Benton
High school: Benton High School
Parents: Haley Hicks and Brec Stone
College plans: University of Arkansas, pre-med

Benton High School's Big Man on Campus — No. 1 in his class, captain of the football team, an AP Scholar, straight As — can add to his resume the fact that he helped build his home. Preston, his two brothers and his mother bounced around a bit after her divorce, from Texas to Arkansas, living with grandparents and friends, Preston said. Then the family was selected by Habitat for Humanity, and he and his brothers pitched in to build their house. "It was the first place I could truly call home and it allowed me the stability I needed to grow into the kind of student I am today," he wrote in his essay for the Arkansas Times. Preston, who also helped build a school outreach group called SERVE to help new or struggling students, also credits sports for giving him purpose. He recently volunteered to trade in the pigskin for a basketball, joining a team that played boys at the Alexander Juvenile Detention Center. "It was an awesome experience," Preston said in a phone interview. "We were a little bit nervous at first" at the detention center, he said, but the team enjoyed the game — even though they lost to the Alexander team, formed to reward inmates with good behavior. "They practice every day," Preston said. Preston has received a $70,000 Honors College scholarship at Fayetteville. He won't be playing football with the Razorbacks. Instead he is thinking of following a pre-med track that will lead him to sports medicine. He plans to go Greek, as well.

KARINA BAO
Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
High school: Central High School
Parents: Amy Yu and Shawn Bao
College plans: undecided

Karina Bao embraces complexity. The Central High School valedictorian (in a class of 636) is a member of the school's back-to-back state champion Ethics Bowl Team, for which she said she spent hours "researching, discussing and sometimes even arguing" case studies. Unlike debate, she said Ethics Bowl is "really about the back-and-forth and considering different caveats and nuances and considerations" in issues ranging from local food to gender identity. As president of the school's Brain Club, she leads discussions on brain diseases, disorders and anatomy. It's a role for which she's more than qualified: She placed first in the U.S. Brain Bee, a youth neuroscience competition in which contestants answer questions about anatomy and make diagnoses based on patient actors. Placing No. 1 in the U.S. competition landed Karina a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, to the International Brain Bee, which happened to coincide with a Federation of International Neuroscientists conference, where Karina got to talk to scientists from all over the world about their groundbreaking research. She placed fifth in the international competition. A perennial outstanding delegate winner at Model United Nations competitions, Karina said Model U.N. has helped her to "not be scared of the complexity and interconnectedness of pressing issues we face today." In her spare time, Karina volunteers on the oncology wing of Baptist Hospital. "You don't get to do much," she said. "But at least we get to talk to people and help them with whatever they need and be there to listen." In her Academic All-Stars essay, Karina echoed the same drive for understanding: "The stories other people share with me become not my own when I retell them, but a part of humanity's collective spirit to understand each other. We grow from hours of listening and crying, to empathize, to have the strength and openness to pop each successive layer of the protective bubble that keeps us from seeing the very world in which we reside."

BRYCE COHEA
Age: 19
Hometown: Greenwood
High school: Greenwood High School
Parents: Mike and Robin Cohea
College plans: University of Tulsa or Vanderbilt university, biology

Though he grew up landlocked, far from the deep blue sea, Greenwood High School standout Bryce Cohea knew from an early age that he wanted to be a marine biologist. To reach that goal, Bryce had to start early. "In the ninth grade," he wrote in his Academic All-Stars essay, "I began planning out all my classes for the next four years. I wanted to graduate top of my class, and in order to do that I would need to take every advanced placement class and get an A in every class." That's exactly what he did, too, making nothing less than a perfect grade in every class for his entire high school career. With a 4.25 GPA and a rank of No. 1 in his class of 275, Bryce has volunteered extensively with the Salvation Army and collected shoes for the homeless; he helps unload trucks and stock shelves at the food bank at his church. A National Merit semifinalist, he also has the distinction of having scored the first perfect ACT score of 36 in Greenwood High School history. "I've honestly been a good test-taker," he said. "The first time I took it, I got a 34. After that, I got the test back and I worked on whatever I missed. After a few more tries, I got a 36." Bryce was still deciding on which university to attend when we spoke to him, but he definitely plans to study science. The subject has always interested him, he said. "I'm planning on majoring in biology and then specializing after that," he said.

IMANI GOSSERAND
Age: 16
Hometown: Rogers
HIGH SCHOOL: ROGERS HIGH SCHOOL
Parents: James and Hyesun Gosserand

College plans: University of Southern California, Harvey Mudd College or Columbia University, computer science or environmental science

Imani Gosserand has a journal in which she organizes the many moving parts of her life — competitive gymnastics, AP classes, computer science, Young Democrats, volunteering — into lists. Personal stuff is in there, too: bucket lists, remembrances. The journal combines the creative and the organized; it is problem-solving with an artful flare, which is how Imani operates. "I really like being able to create something of my own," she said of computer science. At a camp at Stanford University, in California, her team won the competition to program a car. Imani, not surprisingly, is good at math: She learned multiplication at age 4 and went on to skip two grades. Imani thinks schoolwork is fun. "We had a huge packet of homework problems we had to do over one of our breaks," she said. "And no one else was excited about it except for me. I was like 'Oh, I'm so excited to do all these problems!' " She brings that enthusiasm for problem-solving to bigger issues, as well. "I feel like there are so many opportunities for me because our world relies on technology, so I think I could go into any field," she said. She's excited to explore and see where she can help. "I want to meet people from around the world and hear different perspectives."

C.J. FOWLER
Age: 18
Hometown: Little Rock
High School: Central High School
Parents: Bobbi and Dustin McDaniel and Chris and Kim Fowler
College plans: Yale University

C.J. Fowler has long been around Democratic politics. His stepfather is former Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. But C.J. said he decided to become more politically involved himself after he came out as gay. "The situation that I'm in is not great," he said. "People are not always accepting. But it's on me if I want to try to change that and make it better for the people who come after me. I have to make sure that my community and all marginalized communities have a seat at the table, because far too often a bunch of old gray white guys are making policies that hurt everyone else." The student body president of Central High, C.J. said he's tried to move the student council, a glorified dance committee, toward advocacy and activism for students throughout the district, whose future is being decided by those "people sitting in dark rooms." He said students too often get left out of the conversation about the district "because we're too young to have opinions. But we're not; we're living it every day." C.J. has been a fixture at Little Rock School District public comment periods. Though he can't point to any policy victories, he said at least LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore knows who he is and that he disagrees with him. C.J., who is also the executive director of Young Democrats of Arkansas, sees the backlash against President Trump as encouraging. "We're realizing that, if we're going to go all in for progressive values, we need to go all in." Rather than join the chorus of progressives in the Northeast after he finishes at Yale, C.J. says he wants to come back to Arkansas and possibly continue in politics. He admires state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) and says he hopes if he ever holds office that he can follow her example.

SOPHIE PRICE
Age: 18
Hometown: Fort Smith
High School: Southside High
Parents: Claire Price and Scott Price
College plans: Vanderbilt University, political science

"Growing up, I would always argue with everybody," Sophie Price said. Sometimes it was just to play devil's advocate, but mostly, it was because Sophie wants to find the capital-t Truth. Some of this digging for truth is class: seven AP course just this year and 12 during her time in high school. But, some of it is also talking with people, discussing issues. "The best way to improve your argument is to hear the counters, to hear the other side," Sophie said, and often she is willing to be convinced. She wants to do the right thing; she believes in justice. Which is why after college at Vanderbilt on a full scholarship, she wants to field arguments as a judge. "My whole life I've followed this ideal that you have to do what's right," Sophie said. "I want to be a judge so I can kind of decide that." Vanderbilt was the only school to which Sophie applied. She knew it was the right one for her. She arrived in Nashville on a rainy day in January, but through the gloom, she knew. "Something about the beautiful campus and the intelligent people and these varying perspectives just sold me immediately," she said. In a few months she was back at Vanderbilt for a camp where she studied law, and it cemented the deal. "There was something so exhilarating about being able to have this case and have the facts and kind of create your own narrative and really advocate for someone that drew me in," she said. Watch out, because "everything I do, I want to give it a 120 percent," Sophie said.

MEAGAN OLSEN
Age: 17
Hometown: Fayetteville
High School: Fayetteville High School
Parents: Anjanette Olsen
College plans: University of Arkansas Honors College, chemical engineering

Fayetteville High School’s top student, with a perfect ACT score of 36, a 4.2 gradepoint average and the co-author of a paper on fractal self-assembly, is not just a bookworm. She’s a leader, her counselor Cindy Alley says, who shows “grit, motivation to succeed and a desire to help others.” She is also, Alley says, “a pure joy to be around.” In her essay for the Arkansas Times, Meagan talked about how she came to understand “ternary counters,” a base-3 method of counting in which only the digits 0, 1 and 2 are used. (Binary counters of 0 and 1 make up our computer’s “thinking,” as people with 10 fingers, we use base 10 to count.) Meagan, trying to make a “self-assembling ternary counter,” said she banged her head against “endless walls” for weeks. Then just after 1 a.m., she woke up with the answer. It’s a wise child who gives credit where credit is due: “I understood,” she wrote, “my mother’s advice about taking a break whenever I was upset.” Meagan’s paper on fractal self-assembly was published in the 22nd International Conference on DNBA Computing and Molecular Programing. She no longer lets frustration prevent her from solving a problem; sometimes, she’ll just sleep on it. Meagan told the Times she plans to attend a small conference this summer and then take some needed down time. She plans to use her degree from Fayetteville to pursue biomedical research.
          The Little Rock millage question: taxation without representation?   
Frustration with the state's takeover of Little Rock schools scrambles the usual political lines on an upcoming millage election.

On May 9, residents of the Little Rock School District will vote on a ballot measure that would allow the district to make facilities improvements totaling $160 million, if approved. According to LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore, the measure is not a new tax, since it would not raise the rate of 46.4 mills now levied on property owners. Instead, by refinancing debt on an existing bond, the district would push back the expiration date of a portion (12.4 mills) of the current tax rate by 14 years, from 2033 to 2047. The LRSD says the projects to be funded by this extension of debt would include construction of a new high school in long-neglected Southwest Little Rock, major renovations to the McClellan High School campus and improvements to almost every school building in the district, from roof replacements to air conditioner upgrades to new windows. The work could begin as early as this summer, with some efforts completed in time for the 2017-18 school year.

So why are many public school advocates — including the city's most visible African-American civic leaders — urging a "no" vote on May 9?

In a word, distrust. Since January 2015, when the district was taken over by a 5-4 vote of the state Board of Education, the LRSD has been governed not by a locally elected school board, but by Arkansas's education commissioner, Johnny Key, a gubernatorial appointee. The proximate reason for the takeover was low student performance at six schools (out of the district's 48 campuses) that were deemed to be in "academic distress" based on test scores over a three-year period. But many in Little Rock saw other reasons for the state's actions: a racially motivated animus toward the majority-black local school board, which was dissolved by the January 2015 state board vote, and a desire to promote privately operated charter schools at the expense of public ones. For those critical of the takeover, the past two years have only confirmed these suspicions.

Two charter operators in Little Rock, eStem Public Charter Schools and LISA Academy, are dramatically expanding and will likely draw many students away from the LRSD in the coming years — perhaps thousands. The state board authorized their expansion plans in March 2016 over the vocal protests of the district's erstwhile superintendent, Baker Kurrus, who was fired by Commissioner Key shortly thereafter. Kurrus had served just one year on the job, having been hired by Key in 2015. Then, in the 2017 legislative session, the Republican majority created a new law that will soon allow charters to force districts to sell or lease school buildings deemed "unused or underutilized." The LRSD will close two buildings at the end of the current school year, and the ongoing migration of families toward charters raises the possibility of more closures in the future. And more charter operators are eyeing the Little Rock market: In March, a New Orleans-based operator called Einstein Charter Schools began the application process to open a campus in the city. All of this means the district is asking taxpayers to shoulder millions of dollars in additional debt to improve public buildings at a time when the future ownership of those buildings is itself in doubt.

Those who believe racial prejudice propelled the takeover find fault both with charter growth and with the district's priorities while under state control, especially the recent closure decisions. The LRSD soon will shutter two K-5 elementary schools, Franklin and Wilson, along with a pre-K facility, Woodruff Early Childhood Center. The LRSD's alternative school, Hamilton Learning Academy, will move to the Wilson building, with the old Hamilton building likely to be used by adjacent Bale Elementary. Franklin and Wilson are located in majority-minority neighborhoods and their student populations are mostly African-American and Latino. Though many of the projects outlined in the LRSD's list of capital improvements to be funded by the May 9 vote would benefit schools serving black and Latino students — the Southwest Little Rock high school most of all — many activists are deeply skeptical the district will follow through with those promises. Because the ballot measure does not specifically state which projects will receive funding, some warn the $160 million could be directed toward schools in more affluent, whiter neighborhoods rather than those with the greatest needs.

Superintendent Poore is at the heart of this controversy. The decision to close or repurpose schools was his, and he defends it as a difficult but necessary choice. (Key, who acts as the district's board while under state control, gave final approval.) For years, the LRSD received $37 million annually from the state as a result of a desegregation lawsuit — over 10 percent of its budget — but those payments will soon end. Although both Poore and his predecessor, Kurrus, made major cuts in other areas, the district still had to trim $11 million from the 2017-18 budget.

Poore told the Arkansas Times recently that school closures were painful, but also long expected. "The reality was we had 2,300 vacant elementary seats — 4,100 when you add in the portable [buildings] — and so we took out of the mix two elementaries with maximum capacities being just under 1,000." If the LRSD doesn't close buildings, Poore argued, it would have to cut back on staff. "Yes, these two schools closing, and the preschool closing, that has an impact on our communities, but I'll tell you what could have had a bigger impact. ... When 80 percent of your business is people, now you're talking about privatizing food service, privatizing custodial. ... We could have been impacting hundreds of employees if we'd taken that route."

As for the charter school issue, Poore said he urged legislators to vote against the recent legislation, which will give charters the ability to wrest underutilized buildings away from districts. Poore has not been as outspoken as Kurrus on the potential harm that charter growth can deal to the LRSD, but he's made it clear he doesn't want the district's facilities to be colonized by outside schools. For that reason, he is moving quickly to find a new use for the Franklin and Woodruff buildings, and the district is now reviewing proposals garnered by a recent RFP.

"We're trying to be aggressive about repurposing," he said, adding later, "I don't believe we want to enhance the number of charter seats [in Little Rock] right now."

Poore argued that capital improvements are necessary if the district hopes to retain students or to win back families that have left the LRSD for charters or private schools. He pointed to studies showing modernized facilities can boost student achievement by several percentage points. "I can't control [charter growth], but what I can control is what we do. ... If you've improved academic performance and you're creating a better learning environment and it's a more pleasing building to kids and patrons, that prevents some of the issues that we're already facing right now in terms of our competitiveness. And it ties into the bigger picture of what this district has to do to have the community believe that, and, more importantly, have families say, 'I want my kid in Little Rock schools.' "

Poore also said the proposed debt extension on the May 9 ballot is "just the first phase" in a larger, long-term plan to address the full $340 million in needs identified by a 2014 study of district facilities, which will eventually require a modest millage increase. Getting the ball rolling with an initial $160 million investment will build confidence for that future vote, Poore believes. "My No. 1 target that has been given me since I came in, from the governor, the commissioner and this community, is [to] get local control back. But the No. 1 thing to do is to serve kids well, and they deserve to not have a roof that leaks. They deserve to have air conditioning that creates fresh air [and] hallways that aren't dark and dingy," he said.

Yet for many, the May 9 vote itself is a reminder that LRSD voters have not weighed in on a school issue since the September 2014 local board election — a few months before the state takeover dissolved that body. State board member Jay Barth, a Little Rock resident, recently pushed his colleagues to set a timeline for release of the district from state control, but the effort foundered.

"There are people who are critical," the superintendent acknowledged, "who say, 'Really, Mike Poore? You're coming to ask us in May to extend the debt, and you just closed schools? And really, you're coming when we don't even have local control?' Well, on the local control issue — this does allow every citizen in this whole community right now [to speak]. You can't get a truer form of democracy than everyone gets to go vote on this issue. So in that sense, it really is a deal to let the community say, 'Here's what we think.' "

And what does the community think? To get a sense, we asked school advocates on both sides to make their case.

Maxine Allen

I am a sixth-generation Little Rock residential property owner. I witnessed my parents paying a poll tax in order to vote. I am a product of the segregated and then newly integrated Little Rock School District. I attended the district at a time in which white schools received textbooks first. By the time black schools got the books, they were soiled, pages were missing and text had been marked through. In spite of all of that, I believed I received an excellent education.

I am a parent who served as a "room mother" and whose children attended Woodruff, Pulaski Heights and Williams Magnet Elementary Schools; Pulaski Heights, Horace Mann Magnet and Forest Heights Middle Schools; and Parkview and Central High Schools. I believe my children received a quality education.

I am a pastor who has served as a volunteer in public schools. I believe every child needs a great school where they are immersed in diversity, encouraged to think critically and empowered to expand their worldview. As a United Methodist, I operate within our tradition that declares education is a right of all children. This is affirmed by scripture, which calls us to "train children in the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6).

However, I believe that we must regain local control of our schools BEFORE voting for any millage. The LRSD is no longer in academic distress (if it ever was, as six schools do not a distressed district make). While I have many friends on the opposite side of this issue, I cannot in good conscious vote for the millage until we have an elected LRSD board. There's just something about the basic American principle, "No taxation without representation." For these reasons, I urge you to vote against the millage!

Rev. Maxine Allen is the president of the Christian Ministerial Alliance.

State Sen. Joyce Elliott

Little Rock School District students deserve not just better facilities, but world-class facilities. So let's just stipulate that we all agree on that point and try to understand why many of us feel as if we are redlined to bear the burden of a master plan not revealed to us. For example, most of the millage extension supporters I have observed do not have schools closing in their neighborhoods.

LRSD students, parents/guardians, educators and others deserve to have their district back, not under state control. To this date, there has been no compelling reason put forth for the state to have assumed authority over the LRSD when 42 of the 48 schools in the district — 87 percent — were not in distress. The number has since climbed to 45 schools, or 94 percent. It was a raw exercise of power by folks who gave vague answers such as, "Well, something needed to be done." Yes — about the few schools in academic distress. Taking over the entire district was totally unwarranted. If I have a couple of teeth that need to be extracted, would you extract them all using the logic "something needed to be done"? Certainly not. But that's just what the State Board of Education did.

And now the extended apparatus of the board, Commissioner Key, has wielded power far beyond addressing the schools in academic distress by hiring a superintendent (Baker Kurrus), firing that superintendent, installing present Superintendent Michael Poore and unilaterally closing schools in historically underserved neighborhoods south of Interstate 630. And now, folks who advocated for the state board to seize control of the LRSD, such as the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, are leading the effort to extend the millage with glossy flyers and bright yard signs.

I cannot vote for a tax without elected, accountable representation. I want the best for LRSD students, but I am not prepared to dishonor the blood-soaked history of all those who sacrificed to guarantee me full citizenship rights. There are many voters who share my visceral feeling that a tax election imposed by one person is a betrayal of democracy. There are others, it appears, who have no problem with it and who are cheerleading to carry out a vote under conditions you might find in a developing country.

This election is a deliberate attempt to force us into a false dilemma: On May 9, choose better facilities for students, or choose to insist on restoration of our rights as citizens. Let us not choose but work together to demand both. Let's not give in to political extortion.

Will the folks who pleaded for the takeover now join in the demand to return the LRSD to us? I hope so. I am ready to join hands with you.

Joyce Elliott is a Democratic state senator representing a portion of Little Rock and a former teacher.

Bill Kopsky

For the first time in my life, I will be voting AGAINST a bond measure for important civic infrastructure. My opposition to the bond extension comes down to trust, transparency, accountability and inclusion.

A deep distrust rooted in more than a century of racial and economic segregation is the LRSD's biggest challenge, not finances. The state takeover and Education Commissioner Johnny Key, our one-man appointed school board, have made it worse.

Commissioner Key consistently refuses to meet with the community and has failed to produce any vision for the school district other than a massive, polarizing charter school expansion. He is barreling ahead despite clear data showing that charter schools fail to outperform LRSD schools with similar demographics. Those charters leave the LRSD with a more segregated student population and significantly fewer resources to meet their needs.

The greatest tragedy of Commissioner Key's charter mania is the distraction from effective education reforms we could be working on together. We should be expanding community schools, not closing neighborhood schools. We should be recruiting and developing more world-class teachers, not demoralizing and chasing them away. We should be building community partnerships to help our students meet their full potential, not alienating wide swaths of the city. We should be dramatically expanding early childhood education, summer and afterschool programs, and supports for low-income students and English-language learners.

The LRSD is attempting some of these reforms, but it is constantly being undermined by the state. In 2015, legislators attempted to hand the entire district over to private charter corporations. Then, the commissioner fired our superintendent, Baker Kurrus, for telling the truth about charter expansion's harmful effects. This year, the legislature passed a law requiring us to give closed school buildings to charter corporations while those in control of the district simultaneously shut down schools in the most vulnerable parts of town in a sham public engagement process.

Now with no trust, transparency or accountability, and no district-wide plan for the future, Commissioner Key asks for a bond extension? It's outrageous. How could anyone trust him with a blank check?

Those arguing for the bond extension rightly point out that LRSD facilities have many needs. They fail to make a case for the urgency of doing this while we remain under state control. The bond that we are being asked to extend doesn't expire for years to come.

There's no reason why Little Rock taxpayers can't make this decision once LRSD is back in local control. The schools our kids deserve are rooted in evidence-based and community-driven reforms. In the coming years I hope to vote for a transparent and accountable bond measure that unites our city. For now, VOTE AGAINST.

Bill Kopsky is a Little Rock School District parent and public education advocate.

Marion Humphrey Sr.

I intend to vote against extending this millage because I do not trust either Education Commissioner Johnny Key or the Arkansas State Board of Education.

Key was placed in charge of the district after the state board's racist and immoral vote on Jan. 28, 2015, to remove the lawfully elected and majority African-American district's board of directors. The takeover came after the district's board was notified by letter on July 10, 2014, that six out of its 48 schools were in academic distress. The district was given just one semester in which to correct the acknowledged problems with those schools. No further academic proficiency testing was done between the time of notification in July and the time of the takeover the following January. The fix was already in.

The state board simply wanted someone other than the duly elected district board members in control, even if that meant recklessly throwing the district into disarray and chaos in the middle of the school year. The majority of the state board removed a local school board composed of people whom the Walton Family Foundation and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce did not want to be in charge of the district — and especially its $330 million budget.

Yet Key has not made himself available to the general public to discuss why the millage extension is necessary. Whether he does not want to disclose what he intends to do with the additional money or whether he does not have time to be bothered with some of us, Key is simply not accessible to many district patrons. Perhaps he has targeted the voters he thinks he needs for passage of the millage extension and sees no need to waste his time with others.

I am not convinced that additional money is needed to make the capital improvements that proponents suggest, and I am not confident in the judgment of Commissioner Key. If he cared about families living south of I-630, why would he close schools such as Wilson, Franklin, Woodruff and Hamilton? After all, Wilson received an exemplary rating from the Arkansas Department of Education. If our concern is truly about a great education for the children of this district, why would an intelligent and thoughtful educator close an exemplary school and do collateral damage to its neighborhood as well?

For my first time ever, I intend to vote against a school millage.

Marion A. Humphrey Sr. is a retired Pulaski County Circuit judge and a pastor at Allison Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Anika Whitfield

It is really simple. The LRSD is currently being managed by two men, both of whom were appointed to their positions, are not natives of Little Rock, did not attend the LRSD and do not have children who attend the LRSD now or in the past. Education Commissioner Johnny Key and Superintendent Michael Poore are making decisions for our district without locally elected representation or accountability.

Key will argue that he appointed the LRSD Community/Civic Advisory Board to represent the people of this city. The problem with that argument is that Key chose persons who will serve his interest in supporting the expansion of charter schools. Key has been publicly lobbying to replace traditional public education options for students with private-public charter schools.

In addition, Key has refused to meet in public settings to engage with parents and community members who have questions about school closures, community impact studies, plans for academic improvements in schools designated to be in academic distress, ways to assist traditional public schools, and ways to help advertise, recruit and promote the great programs and opportunities for students, parents and teachers in the LRSD — just to name a few of his denied requests for public meetings.

Given the fact that Key is the sole board member of the LRSD, the only person who makes the final decisions for the LRSD, and the sole person who has the power to overrule Poore's decisions, it would be unwise to hand more tax money over to this appointed leader who has shown little to no respect for the residents of Little Rock, the students who attend the LRSD and their parents. Key has publicly said that he would not be open to yielding to the Little Rock Board of Directors and mayor to conduct neighborhood impact studies before closing schools, displacing students and school personnel and taking away public, anchoring institutions from people who fund and support them.

Voting for the May 9 LRSD millage tax extension would be like Walmart giving Target money and expecting Target to use those funds to improve Walmart's business. Not going to happen. It would be like giving a thief keys to your home and expecting the thief to protect your home and possessions. Not a wise choice. I strongly encourage voters to vote AGAINST the May 9 LRSD millage tax extension.

A better investment of taxpayers' dollars, time and resources would be to directly invest in students, schools, teachers and families in the LRSD. This way, you know that your dollars will be spent on students and teachers that need these resources, and not on brick and mortar. Invest directly in students, teachers, families and schools in a way that you can ensure is actually meaningful and not destructive to the vitality of the LRSD.

Dr. Anika T. Whitfield is an LRSD graduate, an alumna of Franklin Elementary and a volunteer in the district.

Faith Madkins

As I walk the halls of McClellan High School each day, I see a small community high school filled with Lion pride, exceptional talent and growing potential. Unfortunately, with the good also comes the bad. I have immense pride in my school, but sadly I cannot say the same about my district. I have been in the Little Rock School District all of my life since kindergarten — bouncing around from school to school — and I've seen most of what the district has had to offer.

Our buildings are older than most of our parents. In fact, most of our grandparents can remember these schools being built. That means everything in these buildings is outdated. Things that would have sufficed 60 years ago would never make the cut today.

To further explain what I mean, I want to place you in my shoes. So, here we are at the doors of McClellan. It's springtime and the flowers are blooming. The sun is out, and it is beautiful outside. The bell sounds, and it is time for first period. The main halls are so cramped that it's difficult to pass through the crowd. It's hard to not feel a shoulder or a backpack invade my personal space and even harder to not trample over someone's feet. I can avoid going to my locker; I stopped using it due to the fact it frequently jammed. There wasn't enough space in there, anyway. I finally get to class and take my seat. As my teacher is talking, I can't help but be distracted by what's going on next door. Most of our walls either (a) don't reach the floor or (b) are paper-thin. Yet I am expected to focus.

A teacher of mine once said, "You know you have a friendship when you can have a conversation with disagreements and still go out for lunch." Now that I am 18, I am able to sit down at that table with you and join the conversation. Let's establish a friendship based on the well being of the students in this district. With all of our agreements and disagreements, let's at least be able to agree that the students deserve better. I deserved better, and I had to settle. Don't force other kids to do the same. Let's go out for lunch May 9.

Faith Madkins is a senior at McClellan High School.

Mollie Campbell

I am the proud mother of two, soon to be three, young children. My oldest is in pre-K at Forest Park Elementary. My younger two will follow their big sister to Forest Park, Pulaski Heights Middle School and eventually Central High. My family is committed to being in the Little Rock School District for the next 18 years. That is why this vote is so important to me.

Schools all over our district are seriously overdue for upgrades and improvements. The buildings are on average 53 to 68 years old and have gone without any major capital investments since 2000. Our kids deserve the best possible learning environment. They should not be in buildings with leaky roofs or cafeterias without air conditioning. Every student in the district deserves modern, clean, safe facilities.

This vote will invest millions back into our schools and will impact the entire district — every school and every student. Roof repairs, window replacements, new security systems, restroom renovations and heating and air conditioning replacements will improve the lives of every student, teacher and staff member in the district. The list of improvements to be made comes from a study conducted in 2014, and the funds generated will go directly toward these capital improvements ... no surprises.

Our kids deserve better. After talking with several people about this vote, I acknowledge that some would rather wait until a local school board has control of the money. I, too, look forward to the swift return of our local school board. On this issue however, how long should we ask our kids to wait and allow their education to suffer in the meantime? We cannot let perfection be the enemy of the good when we have a chance to improve all of our kids' classrooms and learning experiences immediately. By voting FOR this ballot measure on May 9, my daughter will enter kindergarten this fall in a school that was improved this summer.

Every day, as my 4-year-old walks into school, I expect her to do everything she can to maximize her learning experience. As her parent, I know it is my responsibility to do the same for her, and right now that means supporting this investment in her school and schools across the district. The time is NOW to invest in our kids and our community, so I look forward to voting FOR our kids on May 9.

Mollie Campbell is a Little Rock School District mom.

Bobby Roberts

In 2014, the Little Rock School District commissioned a facilities study that indicated that approximately $300 million in facilities upgrades and improvements were needed. In January 2015, the school board voted unanimously to approve a $375 million facilities plan.

At that same time, the Central Arkansas Library System had just opened a new library and revitalized our facilities throughout the region. These new facilities helped bring the joy of reading and learning to thousands of students. It was amazing to see the impact that a new library could have on a community by providing a place for people to read, gather, access the internet and learn. These libraries gave students the tools and resources they needed to study, learn and excel. Many of these fine new buildings were constructed when voters approved the refunding of existing bonds. This is exactly the same funding method that the LRSD is proposing to voters.

I saw firsthand what a difference investing in our libraries made in our city and in the lives of children. I know that investing in our schools would have an even greater impact. We need to give students the tools for success, and reinvesting in our aging, outdated academic facilities is the best way to do that. These old buildings do not do that, and we are hampering our students' ability to learn by denying them modern facilities.

If we vote now to extend our bonds, we will raise an additional $160 million to begin addressing the needs of our school facilities. Every school, and therefore every community, in the district will feel the investment of this money by the 2017-18 school year. This investment in our neighborhoods will save us huge dividends by lowering the operational costs of our schools and making them more energy efficient, with better lighting and renovated restrooms and roofs.

By providing them with new facilities, modern technology and a better learning environment, we will empower our students to succeed. By improving their schools, we can increase academic achievement while also providing them with a safer and healthier learning atmosphere. Join me in supporting our kids; join me by voting FOR on May 9.

Bobby Roberts is the former director of the Central Arkansas Library System.

Keith Jackson

As the founder of P.A.R.K., I understand the importance of investing in education. We see the impact that P.A.R.K's modern facility in Southwest Little Rock has on the success of our students. By supporting this vote, you are ensuring that every student in the district will be able to learn in a new and improved learning environment.

In Southwest Little Rock, this vote means that over $95 million will be invested into the community. At a cost of $55 million, a new high school off of Mabelvale Pike would be built beginning this summer and would serve hundreds of students. This school would open in the fall of 2019 and would be equipped with the newest classroom and athletic facilities. With 21st century sports facilities that would be available for community usage, this new high school would benefit everyone in the community.

McClellan High School would also receive a $40 million investment, completely revitalizing the school. Improvements like updated HVAC, roof and window repairs, classroom remodeling and technology updates would create energy savings and enhance the learning environment for our students. This repurposing of McClellan will change the lives of every student that will go through the school.

Improved schools throughout the district can only be a good thing for Little Rock and our community. A vote FOR on May 9 will be a major boost for Southwest Little Rock. With your support, we can give our kids the modern learning environment and facilities they deserve!

Keith Jackson is the founder of Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids, a nonprofit based in Southwest Little Rock that provides afterschool and summer programming for youth.

Gary Smith

There have been no new major capital improvements in our schools since 2000. That means that a student graduating this year will have gone through his or her entire academic career in schools that are outdated and in dire need of improvement. By voting to extend the debt on our bonds for an additional 14 years, we will be able to invest $160 million into rebuilding and rehabilitating every school in our district — all without raising the tax rate.

On average, district elementary school buildings are 68 years old, middle school buildings are 69 years old and high school buildings are 53 years old. A successful election will allow the district to make much-needed improvements district-wide before the start of the 2017-18 school year, including lighting, heat and air conditioning repair and window and roof replacements. These improved facilities will not only support the increased academic achievement of our students by improving their learning environment, but will also create a return on investment by decreasing energy costs. These improvements were selected as priorities after holding 46 community forums.

I'm tired of Little Rock being a donut hole. I'm tired of being surrounded by other cities that are investing in their schools and making a difference in their students' lives. We have watched surrounding districts pass millage increases, build new schools and improve existing ones, and we have done nothing for nearly 20 years. We have a chance now to make a difference.

This choice should be an easy one. We cannot have a great city and a great community without a strong, viable school district. Students are going to go to school tomorrow in a school that desperately needs help. They are going to use outdated technology and go to class in buildings with leaky roofs. This is something we can change. We need to create a better atmosphere for our students, and this vote is the way to do that.

Gary Smith is the chairman of the Committee to Rebuild our Schools Now.



          How the 2017 Arkansas legislature made life worse for you   
But it wasn't as bad as it could've been at the Capitol.

Arkansas's legislators were locked and loaded when they arrived for the 91st General Assembly this year, determined to get more guns into public places and take away voting and abortion rights, their evergreen attacks.

Thanks to the legislature, concealed weapons soon may be carried just about everywhere except Razorback games and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Unemployment benefits were cut, whistleblowers were silenced and charter schools were given advantages over regular public schools. Other legislation was symbolic but ugly, such as an act authored by Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro) that aims to stop Sharia, or Islamic ecclesiastical law, from taking over Arkansas's court system.

Some of the silliest bills went nowhere, such as efforts by Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) to wipe Bill and Hillary Clinton's names off the Little Rock airport, to indefinitely delay implementing the voter-approved medical marijuana program and to call a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Anti-immigrant legislation that would have penalized colleges and cities with so-called "sanctuary" policies withered in committee. Rep. Smith, the sponsor of the bill targeting universities, warned that rogue professors might hide undocumented immigrants in their offices and then dump their human waste on campus in the dark of night; surprisingly, this argument did not persuade his colleagues. Rep. Kim Hendren (R-Gravette) proposed banning cell phones from public schools; later, he filed a bill prohibiting teachers from using books authored by leftist historian Howard Zinn. Neither gained traction.

What was good? A little. Conservatives tried to circumscribe the medical marijuana amendment with bans on smoking and edible products, among other roadblocks, but the worst of the anti-pot legislation stalled. Evidently reassured by Governor Hutchinson's promises to make the private option more conservative (read: stingier) down the line, the annual appropriation for Medicaid passed without a major fight — a relief for the 300,000-plus Arkansans receiving health insurance through Obamacare. Pushed by Hutchinson, the ledge directed some of Arkansas's tobacco settlement proceeds to expand a waiver program for the developmentally disabled, opening the door to services for some 500 to 900 desperate families stranded for years on a waitlist. At long last, the state will stop its reprehensible practice of celebrating Robert E. Lee's birthday simultaneously with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a symbolic but important step forward that was championed by the governor.

Here's our survey of the damage:

GUNS
In Glock we trust

The biggest gun-related news this session was the passage and signing of House Bill 1249, now Act 562, which creates a new "enhanced carry" permit that will allow gun owners who have undergone eight hours of additional training — including active shooter training, with a curriculum still to be worked out by the Arkansas State Police — to carry a concealed handgun in many places previously forbidden under the state's concealed carry law, including the state Capitol, public colleges and universities, bars, churches and courthouses. Concealed carry in prisons, courtrooms and K-12 schools is still forbidden, and private property owners, including bars, churches and private colleges, can still prohibit firearms if they choose.

Sponsored by Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville), the bill was a far piece from where it started by the time it was signed. Originally, Collins' bill would have solely mandated that public universities and colleges allow faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns. It was an attempt to push back against the state's public colleges and universities, which have steadfastly rejected Collins' and his colleagues' attempts to institute "campus carry" in the past. Amendments to HB 1249 soon pushed it several clicks further toward the broad "guns everywhere" approach favored by the National Rifle Association, and far beyond a potential shooting iron in a well-trained professor's briefcase. Now, anyone with the enhanced permit will be able to carry on a college campus, including into sometimes-contentious student and faculty disciplinary hearings and raucous college dorms.

The passage of the bill spawned some last minute scrambling when the Southeastern Conference expressed concerns about fans coming to college football games carrying heat, resulting in Act 859, a cleanup effort that prohibits concealed carry in college athletic venues. Also exempted by Act 859 were daycares, UAMS and the Arkansas State Hospital, an inpatient facility for the mentally ill. The bill also allows private businesses and organizations to ban concealed carry without posting a sign to that effect. If a private business decides to ban concealed carry without posting a sign, anyone caught carrying a concealed weapon on the premises can be ejected or told to remove their gun if they want to come back. If the concealed carrier repeats the infraction, they can be charged with a crime. Even after the purported cleanup, that still leaves a lot of places open to concealed carry unless those places set a policy forbidding the practice, including most hospitals, mental health facilities and off-campus high school and middle school sporting events. At the signing ceremony for HB 1249, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said, "We believe that if you have a legal right to be somewhere, and you're a law-abiding person, you ought to have a legal right to defend yourself." For the NRA, that means the right to be armed everywhere, any time, as long as you don't have a criminal record. Notice Cox didn't say anything about pesky permits or training.

Speaking of law-abiding persons, also of concern when it comes to concealed carry is Act 486. Under the law, the Arkansas State Police is now prohibited from establishing or amending any administrative rule that would revoke or suspend a concealed carry permit unless the holder of the permit was found to be in violation of a criminal offense. While not penalizing a person if they haven't committed a crime sounds like a good idea, the problem is that people can and do go off the rails for a multitude of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with a violation of the criminal code. Before the passage of Act 486, the State Police had broad latitude to revoke or suspend concealed carry permits for a number of reasons, including serious alcohol and drug abuse, dangerous mental illness, or a mental health professional's determination that a permit holder might be a threat to himself, his family or the public. With the passage of Act 486, though, a concealed carry holder who suffers a complete mental breakdown to the point of visual hallucinations can keep on packing right until the moment he or she is admitted at the State Hospital (thanks Act 859!), even if the person's family or a doctor asks the State Police to pull their permit. Ditto with people suffering from substance abuse issues, elderly dementia patients and those who hint they might be capable of suicide or homicide. Under the law, a permit can still be revoked or suspended if the person is caught carrying into a prohibited place like a courtroom or jail, but as seen above, the list of places where handguns are prohibited is dwindling by the year. Otherwise, thanks to Act 486, we just have to wait until that person commits a crime. By then, it's too late.

In the What Could Have Been column, we have HB 1630, by Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock), which would have created the misdemeanor offense of "negligently allowing access to a firearm by a child" if an owner failed to secure a loaded gun or left it in a place a child could easily access. Though the bill had exemptions for hunting, sport shooting and use of firearms on a farm and had a sliding scale of penalties, with incidents involving the death or serious injury of a child at the top of the list, it went nowhere.

EDUCATION

Traditional schools took licks, but the worst was kept at bay.

The single worst education bill passed in 2017 was probably Act 542, sponsored by Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale), which requires school districts to sell or lease "unused or underutilized" facilities to competitor charter schools. Charters already had right of first refusal in the event a district decides to sell a building — but after Act 542 goes into effect this summer, a charter can force a district to sell or lease a building, even if the district doesn't want to do so. If a different entity — a nonprofit, say, or a clinic or a business — wants to buy an unoccupied school building instead, that's too bad. Act 542 requires a district to hold on to unused buildings for two years, just in case a charter comes along and wants the facility for itself.

Clark pointed to a situation a few years ago in which the Helena-West Helena School District refused to sell a vacant elementary to KIPP Delta, a charter. But there are good reasons why a district wouldn't want to hand over an asset to a direct competitor: Charter networks tend to weaken districts by bleeding away higher-performing students and public money, and they often enjoy advantages their traditional public school counterparts do not. As some opponents of the bill pointed out, the new law is tantamount to forcing Walmart to sell a store to Target. That's why school superintendents across the state fought the bill and convinced no small number of Republicans to join Democrats in opposing it. In the end, though, it passed the House on a 53-32 vote. Republican legislators also rejected proposals by Democrats Sen. Joyce Elliott and Rep. Clarke Tucker — both from Little Rock, which is seeing unchecked charter growth at the expense of traditional public schools — to impose fairer rules on charters.

Thankfully, the legislature turned down an even worse proposal. HB 1222 by Rep. Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville) proposed a convoluted scheme to divert millions of dollars away from the public coffers (by means of a tax credit to wealthy donors) and toward private schools in the guise of "education savings accounts" to be used for student tuition. A school voucher plan in all but name, the bill would have been devastating to public education. Dotson eventually scaled back the legislation to a pilot program with a four-year sunset, allowing a Senate version of the bill to win passage in that chamber — but many Republicans remain fond of their local school districts, and it narrowly failed in the House.

Meanwhile, legislators expanded an existing voucher program, the Succeed Scholarship. Created in the 2015 session, it uses public tax dollars to pay private school tuition for a limited number of K-12 students with special needs. Parents are required to waive their child's civil rights protections under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In the past, the scholarship was open only to kids with an Individualized Education Program, or IEP; now, foster children living in group homes will also be eligible, thanks to Act 894 by Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton). Act 327 by Rep. Carlton Wing (R-North Little Rock) will allow a nonaccredited private school to participate, as long as the school has applied for accreditation. And, the appropriation for the Succeed Scholarship rose from $800,000 to $1.3 million — an increase of 63 percent — potentially allowing as many as 200 students statewide to participate.

That bump is especially notable alongside the meager 1 percent increase in the state's overall K-12 education budget for the next two years — far less than the 2.5 percent boost recommended by legislative staff tasked with determining what constitutes "adequate" school funding. A bit more money will be directed to teacher pay and special education, and pre-kindergarten will see an overdue $3 million increase, so the money situation could be worse. Still, with state revenue squeezed hard by tax cuts, and private and charter schools knocking at the door, traditional public schools are clearly not the General Assembly's top priority.

On other fronts, school legislation was a mixed bag. Elliott's Act 1059, will limit the use of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students in grades K-5 — a much-needed reform — but her bid to end corporal punishment failed in committee. (Rural Arkansas still loves the paddle.) One of the better education bills to pass this session was Elliott's Act 1039 which gives teeth to a 2013 law (also by Elliott) requiring dyslexia screening and intervention. Its reporting requirements and enforcement mechanism hopefully will force districts to deliver better reading interventions to dyslexic students. A major accountability bill developed by the state Education Department, Act 930, will overhaul how schools are monitored by the state, though it's too soon to say how the changes will play out. Act 478 by Rep. Bruce Cozart (R-Hot Springs), will require high school students to pass a civics test before graduating; an attempt by Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) to impose the same requirement on legislators and state agency heads received a cold reception. A bill by Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle), now Act 910, will end September school elections and require them to be held concurrent with the November general or spring primary election date. That could spell trouble for future millage votes.

Finally, there's higher education: "Campus carry" dominated the news, but a major change in funding may be just as consequential. Act 148, which originated with the governor's office, creates a funding formula for colleges and universities that ties state money to metrics like graduation rate. HB 1518, now Act 563, a worthy bill by Rep. James Sturch (R-Batesville) requires the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create an action plan for addressing sexual assault on college campuses.

Benjamin Hardy

TAXES

Some help for the working poor and lots of punting.

Give modest credit to Governor Hutchinson. In the 2013 and 2015 legislative sessions, Republican legislators pushed a massive cut on taxes on capital gains and reduced the income tax burden on all but the working poor. This session, Hutchinson provided some relief at the lower end of the tax bracket. Hutchinson pushed through a $50 million tax cut, directed at households with a taxable income of less than $21,000. The cut is misleading, though, as it targets taxable income, which is often far less than salary or adjusted gross income. In fact, Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families pointed out that 48 percent of the overall $50 million cut will go to taxpayers in the top 40 percent of earners, while only 5 percent will go to those making less than $18,000 per year.

Establishing a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit, tied to the federal EITC, would have been considerably more beneficial to the lower 40 percent of Arkansas earners, who often have no income tax liability, but pay a large share of their income in sales tax. An EITC would have provided a more substantial boost to the working poor at less cost than Hutchinson's cut. Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) and Sen. Jake Files (R-Fort Smith) were behind the EITC proposal, which historically has bipartisan appeal, but they couldn't get support from Hutchinson or enough other legislators.

Hutchinson also supported legislation that exempted all military retirement pay and survivor benefits from state income taxes. The first $6,000 of military retirement pay had been exempt previously. Since most veterans aren't career soldiers and eligible for a pension, the exemption will leave out many veterans (again, an EITC would have been a better avenue). But few politicians on either side of the aisle were going to stand in the way of helping veterans — even though Hutchinson unconscionably larded the measure with unrelated tax hikes. The legislation offset the eventual $13.4 million cost of the exemption by raising the sales tax on candy and soda. Completely unrelated to veterans' retirement income, the bill provided a $6 million tax cut on soft drink syrup, which it paid for by taxing unemployment benefits and digital downloads. So, veterans with pensions got a bump and corporate interests got significant help, while folks downloading books and movies, as well as people in between jobs, got screwed.

In the "could have been worse" column, more credit for Hutchinson: He held at bay lawmakers from his party such as Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) who wanted to cut $100 million or more in taxes — threatening essential state services in the process — by creating a commission to consider the future of tax policies in the state.

The commission will have to consider two issues the General Assembly punted on. A bill that would have required out-of-state online retailers to collect sales tax on purchases made by Arkansans stalled in the House, with several Republicans decrying the proposal as a tax increase even though Arkansans already are required to pay the tax by law (few do because it requires self-reporting.) Still, Amazon said it would voluntarily begin collecting sales tax on Arkansas customers beginning in March. Another bill that merely would have referred to voters a proposal to increase the tax on gas to pay for bonds for highway construction failed on similar anti-tax grounds.

Lindsey Millar

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Atual reform

Act 423, "The Criminal Justice Efficiency and Safety Act," might be the most consequential piece of good legislation the General Assembly passed. It's a sprawling, omnibus law, with three primary components.

Most consequentially, it introduces swift and certain sanctioning, which means parolees and probationers who commit minor violations of the terms of their supervision will be sent for 45 to 90 days to Arkansas Community Correction facilities, where they will receive rehabilitative programming, instead of being sent to prison for significantly longer stints. Arkansas in recent years has had the fastest growing prison population in the country, fueled largely by parole violators returning to prison. Swift and certain sanctioning is expected to free up as many as 1,600 prison beds and save the state as much as $30-$40 million.

The law also seeks to divert people who commit nuisance offenses because they are high on drugs or having a mental health crisis in public from jail or prison. It establishes Crisis Stabilization Units, regional facilities where people in crisis could go to receive treatment for several days. The law mandates the creation of three such units, but $5 million earmarked in the state budget for the operation of the facilities, paired with significant additional federal money the state expects to draw from Medicaid, could allow for several more CSUs to open. The locations of the CSUs have not yet been selected, but Craighead, Pulaski and Sebastian counties are thought to be leading candidates. Finally, Act 423 also requires law enforcement officers to receive crisis intervention training to help them de-escalate interactions with people amid behavioral health episodes.

The law is the product of 18 months of study and presentations by the nonprofit Council of State Governments, which reported to a Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force that bill sponsor Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock) co-chaired. Hutchinson, co-sponsor Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) and CSG say the new law will save the state money, which can be reinvested in effective criminal justice policies. CSG's justice reinvestment program has successfully been implemented in states across the country.

Of course, whether it's successful here will depend on policymakers seeing the reforms through. One potential stumbling block: CSG recommended that the state hire 100 new parole and probation officers to better supervise the nearly 56,000 people on parole and probation. Current supervision officers handle on average 125 cases. Governor Hutchinson's budget didn't provide for funding to hire 100 new officers, though it did make temporary funding to Arkansas Community Correction permanent, which will at least allow the department to retain the 60 officers it had hired since 2015. That's not enough, Sen. Hutchinson (who is the governor's nephew) said. He hopes a future General Assembly will approve additional funding for more officers using some of the savings generated by Act 423.

A perennial stumbling block for any criminal justice reform is the inevitable violator who commits a serious crime. A significant portion of Arkansas's recent prison growth spike came because of punitive parole policies enacted in the wake of the 2013 murder of a teenager in Little Rock by a serial parole violator. It's natural to think that locking up people who commit crimes for long stretches reduces crime, but research shows it's just the opposite, Sen. Hutchinson said.

"I've had the luxury of studying this for years now. It's hard to wrap your brain around sometimes," Hutchinson said. "Longer sentences do not, in fact, result in lower crime rates. The longer [people are] incarcerated, the greater chance of recidivism they have."

Hutchinson chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, and many of its members, chief among them Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest), were hostile to the idea of moving away from incarceration in certain situations. King introduced the tough-on-crime Senate Bill 177, which would have required anyone with three stints in prison to serve at least 80 percent of any subsequent sentence. Arkansas already has a two-strikes law: After someone commits a second serious violent or sexual crime, he's required to serve 100 percent of his sentence. So King's measure would have mostly targeted low-level property and drug crimes and at huge cost. According to an impact statement, it would have added 5,499 inmates at a cost of $121 million in 2026. The total 10-year cost to the state would have been $692 million, and that's not including the significant cost of building new prison housing. King let the bill die in the House Judiciary Committee after Governor Hutchinson forcefully spoke out against it.

Three other positive new laws: Act 566, sponsored by the odd couple Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) and Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville), has Arkansas opt out of a section in President Clinton's sweeping 1996 welfare reform law that prevents anyone who has been convicted of a felony drug offense from receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Act 1012, from legislation sponsored by Tucker and Hutchinson, allows someone on probation or parole for an offense that did not involve the operation of a motor vehicle who has a suspended drivers license because of unpaid fines or fees to continue to drive to work or school. Act 539, sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain Home) and Rep. Rebecca Petty (R-Springdale), prevents minors from being sentenced to life without parole. Before they become eligible for parole, the new law requires minors sentenced to life terms to serve 20 years for nonhomicide offenses, 25 years for first-degree murder and 30 years for capital murder. Of course, the Parole Board could repeatedly deny parole requests and force someone sentenced to a life term as a minor to spend his life in prison.

The heartbreaker of the session in criminal justice was the failure of Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott's proposal to require racial impact statements for new criminal justice legislation. The impact statements would have provided research on whether proposed legislation would have a disparate impact on minority groups. Similar bills failed in 2013 and 2015, and this one was substantially amended to merely provide the impact statements as an option, but it died on the House floor. It was another reminder that for many white people, there is no greater insult than suggesting that they or something they do might be racist, even if the bias was unintended. One opponent, Rep. Ballinger, said he did not believe in systemic racism.

Lindsey Millar

ABORTION

Risking women's health

Women and their bodies were subjected to serious new insults this year by Arkansas legislators practicing medicine without a license.

Among the most egregious laws was the so-called "dismemberment abortion" bill, now Act 45, whose chief sponsors were Rep. Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley) and Sen. David Sanders (R-Little Rock). The bill prohibits doctors from performing what doctors believe is the safest method of second trimester abortion: dilation and evacuation. The alternatives would be something akin to a Caesarean section, in which the belly is cut open to remove the fetus, or an induced abortion, which requires the woman to go into labor to expel a fetus killed by an injection of salt water, urea or potassium chloride into the amniotic sac. Those procedures are what doctors call "high morbidity" — meaning they have a high risk of making patients sick.

Dilation and evacuation is recommended by the World Health Organization, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Medical Association. The difference between those organizations and the Arkansas legislature is that one group does not believe women should receive the best health care possible.

But Mayberry and Sanders and their co-sponsors think D&E, which uses a vacuum, is tantamount to butchery. But hysterectomy and induction abortions accomplish the same end as a D&E and are far less safe.

There is no exception for incest or rape in the law. And, like previous laws passed by legislators who think their particular religious beliefs give them the right to control women, the law particularly harms women who can't afford to travel to a more broad-minded jurisdiction to exercise a legal right.

Another evil of the law is that it allows a spouse, parent or guardian to bring a civil suit against the abortion provider if the woman has "received or attempted to receive" dilation and evacuation. That means, according to abortion rights activists and Mayberry himself, a husband can stop an abortion. He may have committed rape. A parent may have committed incest. Doesn't matter.

Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) and Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) brought us the bill that became Act 733, the so-called "sex-selection abortion ban." Despite the fact that there is zero evidence that Arkansas women are dashing into abortion clinics because they've determined the sex of their fetus and don't like it, the bill has the potential to create an huge burden on the doctor provider.

Say a woman has had prenatal tests to see if her fetus has a genetic disorder. She learns there is a disorder and, by the way, the sex of the fetus. Her doctor must ask if she knows the gender of the fetus. If she answers that she does, the abortion must be delayed, because this new state law requires the doctor to "request the medical records of the pregnant woman relating directly to the entire pregnancy history of the woman." No abortion may be performed until every chart for every pregnancy generated by the woman's ob-gyn (or ob-gyns) and staffs and hospitals, every record generated during every trip to the ER she may have had to make, is supplied and reviewed by the abortion provider. Not only could that take a lot of time and generate a mountain of paperwork — what if the woman already had five children? — but it would also notify, perhaps against the woman's will, her doctors and their staffs that she is seeking to obtain an abortion.

The bill does not state what information in those records would suggest that the woman was hell-bent on not having another boy or girl.

"Why are physicians and the clinic made to be an investigative party into a woman's motives to have an abortion?" asked a spokesman for Little Rock Family Planning, the state's only clinic that offers abortion up to 21 weeks.

Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs) and Sen. Scott Flippo (R-Bull Shoals), like Mayberry and Sanders, introduced what's called a model TRAP law (targeted regulation of abortion providers) meant to end abortion by imposing stricter inspection regulations on clinics. The bill allows the state Department of Health to make yearly trips to inspect clinic records and "a representative sample of procedures"; to regulate all aspects of the clinic "without limitation," and to collect an annual fee of $500.

While purporting to be a bill to protect women's health, the new law, Act 383, is designed to let the state shut down a clinic for facilities violations not spelled out in the legislation. It's not clear what violation would close the clinic. Towel on the floor? Out of paper towels? Scoop left in the break room freezer's icemaker?

As it happens, Little Rock Family Planning is inspected frequently, more than the once every year that the law already called for. The health department inspected the clinic four times in 2016, citing such things as discolored ceiling tiles and a chair with rips. The clinic's spokesman said some inspections are instigated by complaints from the anti-abortion protesters that picket outside.

The vague language of Act 383 "has potential for abuse. We don't know if we would be singled out and treated differently, if our license could be suspended for even minor paperwork violations," the spokesman said.

— Leslie Newell Peacock

TRANSPARENCY

The public's right to know took one step forward, two steps back.

Arkansas's robust Freedom of Information Act came under assault in 2017 as never before, with legislators proposing at least a dozen new exemptions to the open records law. Thanks to SB 131, now Act 474, by Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch), security plans of the State Capitol Police are no longer disclosable to the public; Stubblefield's reasoning was that someone seeking to do violence at the Capitol might request such plans, but the law is written so broadly that virtually any record of the Capitol police could fall under the new exemption. Stubblefield's SB 12 (Act 541) created a similar exemption for schools, including colleges and universities. HB 1236, now Act 531, by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould), prevents the disclosure of a body-cam or dash-cam recording of the death of a law enforcement officer.

Thankfully, though, many anti-FOIA bills failed. The most significant was SB 373, by Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs), which proposed exempting attorney-client communications and work product from the FOIA if the client is a public entity. The force behind the bill was the University of Arkansas. The problem with this idea — aside from the fact that attorney-client communications can already be shielded on a case-by-case basis, by order of a judge — is that a public entity could declare almost any record exempt simply by emailing that record to its attorney. Had it passed, this loophole could have swallowed the entire FOIA.

On the bright side, Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R-Rogers) managed to pass HB 1427, now Act 318, to require candidates to file their monthly finance reports electronically, rather than on paper. HB 1010, now Act 616, by Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) extends the same requirement to political action committees and other groups. This matters because a searchable electronic database will make it much easier for the public to track contributions made to candidates and PACs, as well as their expenditures.

However, the legislature quashed an effort to shine a light on the darkest regions of campaign finance when it rejected HB 1005, by Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock). The bill would have required disclosure of "electioneering" spending, meaning advertisements by independent organizations, nominally unaffiliated with any candidate, that dodge ethics laws by scrupulously avoiding the use of phrasings like "vote for" or "vote against." A growing number of states recognize that such ads — which have proliferated tremendously in recent years and comprise hundreds of millions of dollars in spending nationwide — are de facto campaign commercials and require them to be reported as such. Not Arkansas.

Benjamin Hardy

ANTI-LGBT

Threats stalled.

The legislature still shows animus toward people who don't fit its definition of normal, but Arkansans lucked out when three anti-LGBT bills failed. Two so-called "bathroom bills" that targeted transgender children and adults and another that would have let doctors refuse to perform a procedure if it offended their "deeply held beliefs" did not make it into law.

But the legislature also blocked a bill that would have corrected an injustice. SB 580, by Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock), would have provided for the automatic listing of both parents' names on the birth certificates of children of married same-sex couples, an important factor in establishing inheritance and other matters. In a marriage between a man and a woman, the names of both parents are listed on a child's birth certificate, even in cases of surrogacy or artificial insemination. Arkansas is the only state that treats children of same-sex parents differently in this regard, seemingly in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling that struck down bans on gay marriage nationwide. Elliott's bill would have fixed the problem, but when SB 580 came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, vice-chair Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas) said same-sex parents could make a will if they wanted to ensure their kids get an inheritance.

Besides the children of same-sex couples, Collins-Smith doesn't much like transgender people, either. She introduced SB 774 to require that people had to use public bathroom or changing facilities that corresponded with the sex as listed on their birth certificates, and that the governing body of the public entity had to make sure the law was enforced. Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau director Gretchen Hall and Verizon Arena General Manager Michael Marion told Collins-Smith in a hearing on the bill said they could not see how it would be possible to know what was on the birth certificate on the thousands of people who might answer the call of nature at an event. "It's your job to find a way," Collins-Smith snarled. Collins-Smith pulled down the bill when she realized it was not going to pass.

The House passed a bill introduced by Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville), who also had his mind on bathroom use, to expand the state's indecent exposure law. State law already says it is a crime to expose one's genitalia with intent to gratify sexual desire; Ballinger's bill would have made it a crime simply to expose genitalia in front of a person of the opposite sex. (Maybe it's common practice to inspect genitalia in bathrooms up in Berryville.) Though the House vote for the bill was 65 to 3, the bill went down the Senate Judiciary Committee drain, as Collins-Smith's did.

Governor Hutchinson, who did not want Arkansas to suffer economically as North Carolina did when it passed its "bathroom bill" (since partially repealed), was relieved.

Another ugly bill was introduced by Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro): the Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act, which would have allowed doctors to refuse to administer health care services that offended their "deeply held beliefs." Smith had in mind both reproductive rights and transgender reassignment surgery. There was no support for the bill from medical professionals, and state Surgeon General Dr. Gregory Bledsoe spoke against it, saying, "If you're a member of any sort of minority group ... these sorts of bills send a message that threatens you."

Leslie Newell Peacock

AVERAGE ARKANSANS 

Workers, consumers and other enemies of the state got a raw deal.

Governor Hutchinson deserves some recognition for passing a modest income tax cut for working people this session, even if it wasn't quite the boost for the poor that he claimed (see Taxes, page 15). But in almost every other way, the average Arkansan got screwed by the 2017 session.

Start with Act 986, by Rep. Laurie Rushing (R-Hot Springs), which will outlaw private class-action lawsuits under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act — a cornerstone of consumer protection law. Such suits are a powerful deterrent against businesses that intentionally scam customers in various small ways, such as false advertising or misleading promotional offers. Preventing consumers from bringing claims as a class gives the unscrupulous a freer hand to prey on the unsuspecting.

Act 606, by Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R-Horatio), provides a boon to corporations by allowing an employer to sue a worker who records a video or takes photos in the workplace "and uses the recording in a manner that damages the employer." In other words, it will stop whistleblowers from documenting unethical or illegal practices, such as animal abuse at factory farms. Animal rights organizations refer to it as an "ag-gag" bill.

Maybe the biggest prize for big business, though, was the "tort reform" measure that was referred to the 2018 ballot, Senate Joint Resolution 8. Sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain Home), it proposes a new amendment to the state constitution that would place ceilings on the noneconomic and punitive damages that may be awarded to a claimant in a civil suit. Attorney contingency fees would also be capped, at one-third of the net recovery. In short, this would sharply limit the ability of someone who was grievously harmed by an act of medical malpractice to seek compensation in court. SJR 8 sparked a bruising fight in the legislature, with a few Republicans breaking ranks to speak forcefully against abridging the right to a trial by jury. But business interests — especially nursing homes — have been pushing tort reform for years, and the measure proved unstoppable. Unless Arkansas voters reject it in 2018, that is.

Speaking of abridged rights, the legislature also referred a proposed amendment that would enshrine a voter ID requirement in the Arkansas Constitution. The hard truth is that House Joint Resolution 1016, by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs), will likely pass in 2018 given the state's electoral trends. Never mind that proponents of voter ID can't cite any documented instances of voter impersonation in Arkansas, and never mind the evidence that such measures elsewhere have resulted in voters being disenfranchised — voter ID has become gospel to Republicans, aided by President Trump's falsehoods about rampant fraud in the 2016 election. Redundantly enough, the legislature also passed a voter ID bill in addition to the referred amendment, Act 633 by Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle).

Arkansas's status as the worst state in the nation for renters went unchallenged. A bill by Sen. Blake Johnson (R-Corning), now Act 159, softened but preserved the state's unconscionable, one-of-a-kind criminal eviction statute, which courts in several counties have deemed unconstitutional. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the Arkansas Realtors Association, Arkansas also remains the only state in which there is no minimum habitability standard for rental property. HB 1166, by Hot Springs Republican Rushing, purported to address that deficiency, but the bill's proposed standards were pitifully weak — limited to electricity, water, sewer and a roof — and it may have limited renters' meager rights in other ways, so it's best it failed.

Legislators' sympathy for landlords didn't translate to protecting small property owners railroaded by the oil industry. House Bill 2086, an effort by Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) to more carefully examine the use of eminent domain by pipeline companies, was drafted in response to the construction of the Diamond Pipeline, which will carry crude oil across the length of Arkansas from Oklahoma to Memphis. It failed to get out of committee.

Currently, unemployment benefits in Arkansas cover workers for a maximum of 20 weeks, which is a shorter span than any surrounding state except Missouri (also 20 weeks). Act 734 from Rep. Lundstrum will soon reduce that coverage time to 16 weeks ... and reduce weekly benefits checks paid to laid-off workers. This is despite the state's unemployment trust fund having amply recovered from the recession (it now contains around $500 million) and unemployment levels at record lows. So why trim benefits now? Simple: Employers want more money for themselves.

There was at least one good piece of consumer legislation, though, sponsored by none other than Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway). Act 944 aims to close a loophole exploited by payday lenders, which were driven out of Arkansas some years ago by a ban on high-interest loans but recently have been creeping back into the state by charging astronomical "fees" in place of interest.

And some bad measures failed, the most obnoxious probably being HB 1035 by Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville). The bill would have prohibited SNAP recipients from using food stamps to purchase items the state Health Department deems unhealthy, such as soda; it stalled in the face of opposition from grocery stores and others. House Bill 1825 by Rep. John Payton (R-Wilburn), which went nowhere, would have seized lottery winnings from citizens who have received public assistance from the Arkansas Department of Human Services. And, efforts to chip away at workers compensation failed this time around. Got to leave something for 2019.

Benjamin Hardy



          Legislature's Failure to Act on Budget Forces Governor to Prepare Civil Preparedness Emergency Order   
For Immediate Release: Thursday, June 29, 2017 Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA - Governor Paul R. LePage is prepared to issue a Civil Preparedness Emergency Order as a result of the State of Maine Legislature's failure to deliver a budget by the end of the fiscal year, which would prevent a government shutdown.

"The Legislature has had six months to address the budget I sent to them. Now we are in the eleventh hour and liberal Democrats have still refused to budge, which will lead to a government shutdown," said Governor LePage. "These Democrats are not interested in a budget that benefits hard-working Maine taxpayers. They are being controlled by labor union bosses and radical activists at the Maine People's Alliance."

Preparing for the likelihood and severity of government shutdown, Governor LePage last week directed commissioners of every department, as well as the Treasurer, Secretary of State, State Auditor and Attorney General, to determine which employees will work and which services are provided during the duration of a Declaration of Civil Emergency.

"The Executive Branch and the Judiciary are making plans and taking every precaution to ensure there is minimal impact on Mainers during a government shutdown," said the Governor. "However, the Legislature is not working with the Executive Branch and does not appear to be making any preparations."

While Governor LePage continues to review designations of emergency personnel on a case-by-case basis, he has already designated the following functions as emergency. Commissioners have taken planning steps to ensure that the following functions continue during a potential state shutdown to provide for the health and safety of the public and protection of state property, including revenues:

DOC: All correctional facilities

DHHS: Psychiatric hospitals (DDPC and Riverview)

Law enforcement / First responders, including: • DPS: State Police, Capitol Police, MDEA and Fire Marshal • IF&W: Warden Service • DMR: Marine Patrol • ACF: Forest Protection (on-call basis)

State Parks, including: • ACF: All State Parks • Baxter State Park • IF&W: Maine Wildlife Park, Swan Island

DAFS / Maine Revenue Services

OIT: limited operations to support emergency functions and protect infrastructure, with on-call support, as needed

All other requests that commissioners have submitted to the Office of the Governor will continue to be reviewed.

If a Declaration of Civil Emergency is issued, the Order will become effective at 12:01 a.m. on July 1, 2017, and remain in effect until the state of emergency is terminated by Executive Proclamation, or until 12:00 a.m. on July 3, 2017, whichever is earlier.

If the state of emergency still exists by 12:00 a.m. on July 3, 2017, the Order will be reviewed and revised accordingly.
          DreamHost Nominated Most Democratic Workplace   
DreamHost has updated their frontpage to show they have been recognized by WordBlu as one of the most democratic workplaces in 2008.   Guess WordBlu haven’t seen What You Get When You Work at DreamHost…
          Kentucky Secretary Of State Denies White House Request For Voter Information   
NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic secretary of state for Kentucky, about resisting the Presidential Election Commission's requests for voter data from the states.
          We're teaming up with Forward Montana and Last Best News to deliver Facebook Live town halls with the candidates for Montana's congressional seat. Got a question for the candidates? Let us have it!   
Perhaps you've heard: Democrat Rob Quist, Republican Greg Gianforte and Libertarian Mark Wicks are seeking Montana's lone congressional seat, the one left vacant when President Trump called Ryan Zinke to Washington to head the Department of the Interior. The special election that will send one of these men to Congress will be held May 25.

Across the country, voters sit elections out because they lack access to reliable information about the candidates and issues, and Forward Montana, along with the Missoula Independent and Last Best News, aims to change that.…
          Latest: US-backed force warns of Turkey clash in NW Syria   

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces sees a "big possibility of open, fierce confrontation" with Turkish forces in an area of northwestern Syria where the sides exchanged fire on Wednesday, a senior SDF official said on Thursday. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces see a "big possibility of open, fierce confrontation" with the Turkish army in northwestern Syria that would undermine the assault on Islamic State at Raqqa, a senior SDF official said on Thursday.


          Senate Democrat staffers are predominantly white, women   
Senate Democrat staffers are predominantly white and a majority of them are women, according to a report released by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday.The study found that 32 percent of staf...
          Comment on Republican Senate restores spending in NASA budget by Cotour   
Related because its about government spending, and government spending is about taxation: I got into a political "discussion" with a lady friend the other day (Read: Loud head to head head butting that ended with a nice hug :) Her big issues? Trump and the "RICH" have too much money and her taxes are too high, and Trump is going to become Hitler! (What ?) I wrote a private little poem for her that preceded this piece but thought it not appropriate to share. "On another subject: 51.6 percent of all taxes collected by the government are from just 2.7 percent of the population, the "RICH". The rest of the taxes collected, 49.4 percent, come from the remaining 97.3 percent of the population. (2.7 % of the population the “Rich” pay 51.6 percent of all the taxes in the country, as per PEW) If you are interested in lowering your taxes there needs to be less government confiscation of it. So if you are FOR, among many other things, universal healthcare (Read: Welfare / healthcare is not a right but a service that must be paid for. Everyone should have it but someone must pay for it), open borders and illegal immigrants being supported by our social welfare systems, a culture of dependency created by political party’s in order to ensure a dedicated voting block to keep them in power, then you are insisting on higher and higher taxation. That is the Liberal / Democrat model. The Republicans have their own issues that create higher taxation. (Both party’s are by nature corrupt) Government, any government, is from its inception a corrupt and perverted operation, that is what was well understood by the Founders of America. All government can be is corrupt, the only question is to what degree. Your personal dislike of Trump is understandable, he seems to be a bore, but his kind of unique personality and skill set is perfect for Washington and its kind of corruption. He is sooo disruptive to the everyday perverted and corrupt business that goes on in Washington that in the long term he will IMO prove a net positive. What is the by design institutional counter balance to any president? The Constitution. Any president can not just do as they please, there are counter balances in the form of the Congress and the courts. Trump is no Hitler, could never become a Hitler. That is a false political narrative. Why? Because the Founders of America understood the nature of man and the nature of man as it relates to governance / government and power. And they designed mechanisms to limit the power of any and all presidents. So instead of spending time worrying about who has how much or too much $$, it might be a better idea to figure out who is spending all the money, your tax money, and limit how they can spend it. NO?"
          Oregon Committee Passes Bill to Force People to Pay $500,000 for More Abortions   
Last night the Joint Committee on Ways and Means passed out House Bill 3391-B to the full House for a vote. “The Democrat majority in the Legislature is clearly working to reward one of their primary campaign supporters, Planned Parenthood, which stands to financially benefit from HB 3391-B,” said Gayle Atteberry, ORTL executive director. HB 3391-B, Planned […]
          Consumer Sentiment Declined in June   
Consumer Sentiment fell 2.0 points in June to 95.1, according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index.  

The Current Economic Conditions Index rose 0.8 point to 112.5, while the Consumer Expectations Index decreased 3.8 points to 83.9. 
“Although consumer confidence slipped to its lowest level since Trump was elected, the overall level still remains quite favorable. The average level of the Sentiment Index during the first half of 2017 was 96.8, the best half-year average since the second half of 2000, and the partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans stood at 39 Index-points in June, nearly identical to the 38 point gap in February. The partisan divide still meant that June's Sentiment Index of 95.1 was nearly equal to both the average (95.7) between the optimism of Republicans and the pessimism of Democrats and the value for Independents (94.6). Surprisingly, the optimism among Republicans and Independents has largely resisted declines in the past several months despite the decreased likelihood that Trump's agenda will be passed in 2017,” said Richard Curtin, chief economist of UM Surveys of Consumers. “The most important policies to consumers are those that directly or indirectly affect their jobs, incomes, or their financial security. Fortunately, increasing uncertainty about future prospects for the economy has thus far been offset by the resurgent strength in the personal financial situation of consumers. The combination of continuing improvements in personal finances and increasing concerns about the economic outlook is typical around cyclical peaks. Nonetheless, the data provide no indication of an imminent downturn nor do the data provide any indication of a resurgent boom in spending. Even with a much improved 2nd quarter, personal consumption spending is expected to advance during 2017 by about 2.3%.” 

Read the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers 
release
Visit 
Banks and the Economy.

          PACE has turned into platform for anti-democrats and Russophobes - Russian MP   
Earlier on Friday, PACE made public a petition demanding resignation of its President Pedro Agramunt
          House passes Kate’s Law and anti-sanctuary city law, which now move to the Senate   

Two dozen Democrats voted with Republicans Thursday to pass Kate's Law, which will now move to the Senate.

The post House passes Kate’s Law and anti-sanctuary city law, which now move to the Senate appeared first on Powdered Wig Society.


          Israel pursuing a strategy that is placing its long-term future at risk   
I came across the following article, written by the Israeli Ambassador to Singapore, in today's edition of TODAY.

Following the Israeli Ambassador's article is an essay by John J. Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago and co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. I've read the book which he co-authored with Stephen M. Walt, professor of international affairs at JFK School of Government at Harvard University. The controversial book, published in 2007, started out as a controversial essay in 2006 published in the London Review of Books. (At the end of this post is a video of a 2007 documentary on the Israel Lobby in America)

Read also Stephen M. Walt's essay The myth of Israel's strategic genius and Avi Shlaim's essay How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.
Lasting peace in the Middle East...

Accepting the existenceof a Jewish state there, and abandoning the dream of destroying it, is the answer

Thursday • January 22, 2009

Ilan Ben-Dov
Israeli Ambassador to Singapore

THREE weeks of fighting in Gaza have once again put the Middle East at the focal point of the international media.

Now, after another round of violence has ended, we have to ask ourselves again, what is the real root of the problem? What is the key which will lead us to peace in the Middle East?

The basic Arab argument is that the root of the problem is occupation. The Arab world accuses Israel of controlling occupied Arab territories and claims that this is the main issue which prevents peace in the Middle East.

This argument is utterly baseless. The Israelis believe that the root of the problem is the very fact that a large fraction of the Arab-Islamic world still rejects Israel’s right to exist, and rejects the basic right of Jews to live in their independent state of Israel.

Israel has shown in the past that in order to achieve peace, it is ready for territorial concessions, exactly as it did when it signed a peace treaty with its neighbour in the south, Egypt, and its neighbour in the east, Jordan. In both these cases, the dispute over territory was not an obstacle to peace.

Moreover, Israel endorses the establishment of a Palestinian independent state that will live in peace next to it.

In the last two military confrontations in the Middle East — the one with the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the one with Hamas in Gaza — Israel had to defend itself from radical Muslim terrorist organisations which are motivated by extreme religious, Jihadistic ideology that calls for the destruction of Israel.

It is time to reveal these facts loud and clear: Both Hamas and Hezbollah are heavily and directly influenced by Iran. It is the same Iran whose President is calling for the annihilation of Israel, the same Iran which does everything possible to sabotage and to harm any attempt of a dialogue and reconciliation between the Palestinians and Israel.

Iran does not only supply the ideological basis for Hezbollah and Hamas, it supplies them with huge amounts of weapons, ammunition and money.

It is also important to answer the question of what exactly do Hamas and Hezbollah mean by speaking about “occupied territories”? For them, the whole of Israel is considered a so-called “occupied territory”. They do not distinguish between Gaza and Tel-Aviv, between the West Bank and the city of Haifa. For the Iranian President who supports them, Israel must be “wiped out of the map”.

Should this lead us to despair? Of course not.

The Middle East is nowadays divided into two parts. The first is the radical, fundamentalistic-jihadistic part that dreams of the disappearance of Israel from the region. Whoever dreams these dreams is doomed to lead the Palestinians to a deadlock and to many more years of wars, suffering, poverty and hopelessness.

On the other hand, we find the moderate and pragmatic Arab world which aspires to find a peaceful solution based on mutual recognition, justice for both sides and a territorial compromise. Such a solution will pave the way for all people in this region — and especially for the Palestinian people, who have suffered so much in recent years — to a better future.

The key to a lasting solution of the Middle Eastern conflict is therefore not a question of occupied territories. For this question, we can find a compromise.

The real key to a solution is the willingness of the Arab and the Muslim countries to recognise the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East and to abandon the dream of destroying it.
Another War, Another Defeat
by John J. Mearsheimer
Published in the Jan 26, 2009 edition of The American Conservative


The Gaza offensive has succeeded in punishing the Palestinians but not in making Israel more secure.

Israelis and their American supporters claim that Israel learned its lessons well from the disastrous 2006 Lebanon war and has devised a winning strategy for the present war against Hamas. Of course, when a ceasefire comes, Israel will declare victory. Don’t believe it. Israel has foolishly started another war it cannot win.

The campaign in Gaza is said to have two objectives: 1) to put an end to the rockets and mortars that Palestinians have been firing into southern Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in August 2005; 2) to restore Israel’s deterrent, which was said to be diminished by the Lebanon fiasco, by Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and by its inability to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

But these are not the real goals of Operation Cast Lead. The actual purpose is connected to Israel’s long-term vision of how it intends to live with millions of Palestinians in its midst. It is part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a “Greater Israel.” Specifically, Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between them, the air above and the water below them.

The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future. This strategy, which was first articulated by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s and has heavily influenced Israeli policy since 1948, is commonly referred to as the “Iron Wall.”

What has been happening in Gaza is fully consistent with this strategy.

Let’s begin with Israel’s decision to withdraw from Gaza in 2005. The conventional wisdom is that Israel was serious about making peace with the Palestinians and that its leaders hoped the exit from Gaza would be a major step toward creating a viable Palestinian state. According to the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman, Israel was giving the Palestinians an opportunity to “build a decent mini-state there—a Dubai on the Mediterranean,” and if they did so, it would “fundamentally reshape the Israeli debate about whether the Palestinians can be handed most of the West Bank.”

This is pure fiction. Even before Hamas came to power, the Israelis intended to create an open-air prison for the Palestinians in Gaza and inflict great pain on them until they complied with Israel’s wishes. Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s closest adviser at the time, candidly stated that the disengagement from Gaza was aimed at halting the peace process, not encouraging it. He described the disengagement as “formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.” Moreover, he emphasized that the withdrawal “places the Palestinians under tremendous pressure. It forces them into a corner where they hate to be.”

Arnon Soffer, a prominent Israeli demographer who also advised Sharon, elaborated on what that pressure would look like. “When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.”

In January 2006, five months after the Israelis pulled their settlers out of Gaza, Hamas won a decisive victory over Fatah in the Palestinian legislative elections. This meant trouble for Israel’s strategy because Hamas was democratically elected, well organized, not corrupt like Fatah, and unwilling to accept Israel’s existence. Israel responded by ratcheting up economic pressure on the Palestinians, but it did not work. In fact, the situation took another turn for the worse in March 2007, when Fatah and Hamas came together to form a national unity government. Hamas’s stature and political power were growing, and Israel’s divide-and-conquer strategy was unraveling.

To make matters worse, the national unity government began pushing for a long-term ceasefire. The Palestinians would end all missile attacks on Israel if the Israelis would stop arresting and assassinating Palestinians and end their economic stranglehold, opening the border crossings into Gaza.

Israel rejected that offer and with American backing set out to foment a civil war between Fatah and Hamas that would wreck the national unity government and put Fatah in charge. The plan backfired when Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza, leaving Hamas in charge there and the more pliant Fatah in control of the West Bank. Israel then tightened the screws on the blockade around Gaza, causing even greater hardship and suffering among the Palestinians living there.

Hamas responded by continuing to fire rockets and mortars into Israel, while emphasizing that they still sought a long-term ceasefire, perhaps lasting ten years or more. This was not a noble gesture on Hamas’s part: they sought a ceasefire because the balance of power heavily favored Israel. The Israelis had no interest in a ceasefire and merely intensified the economic pressure on Gaza. But in the late spring of 2008, pressure from Israelis living under the rocket attacks led the government to agree to a six-month ceasefire starting on June 19. That agreement, which formally ended on Dec. 19, immediately preceded the present war, which began on Dec. 27.

The official Israeli position blames Hamas for undermining the ceasefire. This view is widely accepted in the United States, but it is not true. Israeli leaders disliked the ceasefire from the start, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the IDF to begin preparing for the present war while the ceasefire was being negotiated in June 2008. Furthermore, Dan Gillerman, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, reports that Jerusalem began to prepare the propaganda campaign to sell the present war months before the conflict began. For its part, Hamas drastically reduced the number of missile attacks during the first five months of the ceasefire. A total of two rockets were fired into Israel during September and October, none by Hamas.

How did Israel behave during this same period? It continued arresting and assassinating Palestinians on the West Bank, and it continued the deadly blockade that was slowly strangling Gaza. Then on Nov. 4, as Americans voted for a new president, Israel attacked a tunnel inside Gaza and killed six Palestinians. It was the first major violation of the ceasefire, and the Palestinians—who had been “careful to maintain the ceasefire,” according to Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center—responded by resuming rocket attacks. The calm that had prevailed since June vanished as Israel ratcheted up the blockade and its attacks into Gaza and the Palestinians hurled more rockets at Israel. It is worth noting that not a single Israeli was killed by Palestinian missiles between Nov. 4 and the launching of the war on Dec. 27.

As the violence increased, Hamas made clear that it had no interest in extending the ceasefire beyond Dec. 19, which is hardly surprising, since it had not worked as intended. In mid-December, however, Hamas informed Israel that it was still willing to negotiate a long-term ceasefire if it included an end to the arrests and assassinations as well as the lifting of the blockade. But the Israelis, having used the ceasefire to prepare for war against Hamas, rejected this overture. The bombing of Gaza commenced eight days after the failed ceasefire formally ended.

If Israel wanted to stop missile attacks from Gaza, it could have done so by arranging a long-term ceasefire with Hamas. And if Israel were genuinely interested in creating a viable Palestinian state, it could have worked with the national unity government to implement a meaningful ceasefire and change Hamas’s thinking about a two-state solution. But Israel has a different agenda: it is determined to employ the Iron Wall strategy to get the Palestinians in Gaza to accept their fate as hapless subjects of a Greater Israel.

This brutal policy is clearly reflected in Israel’s conduct of the Gaza War. Israel and its supporters claim that the IDF is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, in some cases taking risks that put Israeli soldiers in jeopardy. Hardly. One reason to doubt these claims is that Israel refuses to allow reporters into the war zone: it does not want the world to see what its soldiers and bombs are doing inside Gaza. At the same time, Israel has launched a massive propaganda campaign to put a positive spin on the horror stories that do emerge.

The best evidence, however, that Israel is deliberately seeking to punish the broader population in Gaza is the death and destruction the IDF has wrought on that small piece of real estate. Israel has killed over 1,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 4,000. Over half of the casualties are civilians, and many are children. The IDF’s opening salvo on Dec. 27 took place as children were leaving school, and one of its primary targets that day was a large group of graduating police cadets, who hardly qualified as terrorists. In what Ehud Barak called “an all-out war against Hamas,” Israel has targeted a university, schools, mosques, homes, apartment buildings, government offices, and even ambulances. A senior Israeli military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained the logic behind Israel’s expansive target set: “There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel.” In other words, everyone is a terrorist and everything is a legitimate target.

Israelis tend to be blunt, and they occasionally say what they are really doing. After the IDF killed 40 Palestinian civilians in a UN school on Jan. 6, Ha’aretz reported that “senior officers admit that the IDF has been using enormous firepower.” One officer explained, “For us, being cautious means being aggressive. From the minute we entered, we’ve acted like we’re at war. That creates enormous damage on the ground … I just hope those who have fled the area of Gaza City in which we are operating will describe the shock.”

One might accept that Israel is waging “a cruel, all-out war against 1.5 million Palestinian civilians,” as Ha’aretz put it in an editorial, but argue that it will eventually achieve its war aims and the rest of the world will quickly forget the horrors inflicted on the people of Gaza.

This is wishful thinking. For starters, Israel is unlikely to stop the rocket fire for any appreciable period of time unless it agrees to open Gaza’s borders and stop arresting and killing Palestinians. Israelis talk about cutting off the supply of rockets and mortars into Gaza, but weapons will continue to come in via secret tunnels and ships that sneak through Israel’s naval blockade. It will also be impossible to police all of the goods sent into Gaza through legitimate channels.

Israel could try to conquer all of Gaza and lock the place down. That would probably stop the rocket attacks if Israel deployed a large enough force. But then the IDF would be bogged down in a costly occupation against a deeply hostile population. They would eventually have to leave, and the rocket fire would resume. And if Israel fails to stop the rocket fire and keep it stopped, as seems likely, its deterrent will be diminished, not strengthened.

More importantly, there is little reason to think that the Israelis can beat Hamas into submission and get the Palestinians to live quietly in a handful of Bantustans inside Greater Israel. Israel has been humiliating, torturing, and killing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories since 1967 and has not come close to cowing them. Indeed, Hamas’s reaction to Israel’s brutality seems to lend credence to Nietzsche’s remark that what does not kill you makes you stronger.

But even if the unexpected happens and the Palestinians cave, Israel would still lose because it will become an apartheid state. As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently said, Israel will “face a South African-style struggle” if the Palestinians do not get a viable state of their own. “As soon as that happens,” he argued, “the state of Israel is finished.” Yet Olmert has done nothing to stop settlement expansion and create a viable Palestinian state, relying instead on the Iron Wall strategy to deal with the Palestinians.

There is also little chance that people around the world who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will soon forget the appalling punishment that Israel is meting out in Gaza. The destruction is just too obvious to miss, and too many people—especially in the Arab and Islamic world—care about the Palestinians’ fate. Moreover, discourse about this longstanding conflict has undergone a sea change in the West in recent years, and many of us who were once wholly sympathetic to Israel now see that the Israelis are the victimizers and the Palestinians are the victims. What is happening in Gaza will accelerate that changing picture of the conflict and long be seen as a dark stain on Israel’s reputation.

The bottom line is that no matter what happens on the battlefield, Israel cannot win its war in Gaza. In fact, it is pursuing a strategy—with lots of help from its so-called friends in the Diaspora—that is placing its long-term future at risk.



          And Then They Came For Me - Lasantha Wickrematunge's last editorial before being assassinated   
Lasantha Wickrematunge was the Editor of Sri Lanka's The Sunday Leader. He was assassinated a few days ago.

This is an Editorial he wrote before he was gunned down,
And Then They Came For Me
Lasantha Wickrematunge
Editorial, The Sunday Leader
Published 11 Jan 2009


No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last.

I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be The Sunday Leader's 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become the primary tool whereby the state seeks to control the organs of liberty. Today it is the journalists, tomorrow it will be the judges. For neither group have the risks ever been higher or the stakes lower.

Why then do we do it? I often wonder that. After all, I too am a husband, and the father of three wonderful children. I too have responsibilities and obligations that transcend my profession, be it the law or journalism. Is it worth the risk? Many people tell me it is not. Friends tell me to revert to the bar, and goodness knows it offers a better and safer livelihood. Others, including political leaders on both sides, have at various times sought to induce me to take to politics, going so far as to offer me ministries of my choice. Diplomats, recognising the risk journalists face in Sri Lanka, have offered me safe passage and the right of residence in their countries. Whatever else I may have been stuck for, I have not been stuck for choice.

But there is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.

The Sunday Leader has been a controversial newspaper because we say it like we see it: whether it be a spade, a thief or a murderer, we call it by that name. We do not hide behind euphemism. The investigative articles we print are supported by documentary evidence thanks to the public-spiritedness of citizens who at great risk to themselves pass on this material to us. We have exposed scandal after scandal, and never once in these 15 years has anyone proved us wrong or successfully prosecuted us.

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it.

Every newspaper has its angle, and we do not hide the fact that we have ours. Our commitment is to see Sri Lanka as a transparent, secular, liberal democracy. Think about those words, for they each has profound meaning. Transparent because government must be openly accountable to the people and never abuse their trust. Secular because in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society such as ours, secularism offers the only common ground by which we might all be united. Liberal because we recognise that all human beings are created different, and we need to accept others for what they are and not what we would like them to be. And democratic... well, if you need me to explain why that is important, you'd best stop buying this paper.

The Sunday Leader has never sought safety by unquestioningly articulating the majority view. Let's face it, that is the way to sell newspapers. On the contrary, as our opinion pieces over the years amply demonstrate, we often voice ideas that many people find distasteful. For example, we have consistently espoused the view that while separatist terrorism must be eradicated, it is more important to address the root causes of terrorism, and urged government to view Sri Lanka's ethnic strife in the context of history and not through the telescope of terrorism. We have also agitated against state terrorism in the so-called war against terror, and made no secret of our horror that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world routinely to bomb its own citizens. For these views we have been labelled traitors, and if this be treachery, we wear that label proudly.

Many people suspect that The Sunday Leader has a political agenda: it does not. If we appear more critical of the government than of the opposition it is only because we believe that - pray excuse cricketing argot - there is no point in bowling to the fielding side. Remember that for the few years of our existence in which the UNP was in office, we proved to be the biggest thorn in its flesh, exposing excess and corruption wherever it occurred. Indeed, the steady stream of embarrassing expos‚s we published may well have served to precipitate the downfall of that government.

Neither should our distaste for the war be interpreted to mean that we support the Tigers. The LTTE are among the most ruthless and bloodthirsty organisations ever to have infested the planet. There is no gainsaying that it must be eradicated. But to do so by violating the rights of Tamil citizens, bombing and shooting them mercilessly, is not only wrong but shames the Sinhalese, whose claim to be custodians of the dhamma is forever called into question by this savagery, much of which is unknown to the public because of censorship.

What is more, a military occupation of the country's north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering "development" and "reconstruction" on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A problem amenable to a political solution will thus become a festering wound that will yield strife for all eternity. If I seem angry and frustrated, it is only because most of my countrymen - and all of the government - cannot see this writing so plainly on the wall.

It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government's sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended. In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.

The irony in this is that, unknown to most of the public, Mahinda and I have been friends for more than a quarter century. Indeed, I suspect that I am one of the few people remaining who routinely addresses him by his first name and uses the familiar Sinhala address oya when talking to him. Although I do not attend the meetings he periodically holds for newspaper editors, hardly a month passes when we do not meet, privately or with a few close friends present, late at night at President's House. There we swap yarns, discuss politics and joke about the good old days. A few remarks to him would therefore be in order here.

Mahinda, when you finally fought your way to the SLFP presidential nomination in 2005, nowhere were you welcomed more warmly than in this column. Indeed, we broke with a decade of tradition by referring to you throughout by your first name. So well known were your commitments to human rights and liberal values that we ushered you in like a breath of fresh air. Then, through an act of folly, you got yourself involved in the Helping Hambantota scandal. It was after a lot of soul-searching that we broke the story, at the same time urging you to return the money. By the time you did so several weeks later, a great blow had been struck to your reputation. It is one you are still trying to live down.

You have told me yourself that you were not greedy for the presidency. You did not have to hanker after it: it fell into your lap. You have told me that your sons are your greatest joy, and that you love spending time with them, leaving your brothers to operate the machinery of state. Now, it is clear to all who will see that that machinery has operated so well that my sons and daughter do not themselves have a father.

In the wake of my death I know you will make all the usual sanctimonious noises and call upon the police to hold a swift and thorough inquiry. But like all the inquiries you have ordered in the past, nothing will come of this one, too. For truth be told, we both know who will be behind my death, but dare not call his name. Not just my life, but yours too, depends on it.

Sadly, for all the dreams you had for our country in your younger days, in just three years you have reduced it to rubble. In the name of patriotism you have trampled on human rights, nurtured unbridled corruption and squandered public money like no other President before you. Indeed, your conduct has been like a small child suddenly let loose in a toyshop. That analogy is perhaps inapt because no child could have caused so much blood to be spilled on this land as you have, or trampled on the rights of its citizens as you do. Although you are now so drunk with power that you cannot see it, you will come to regret your sons having so rich an inheritance of blood. It can only bring tragedy. As for me, it is with a clear conscience that I go to meet my Maker. I wish, when your time finally comes, you could do the same. I wish.

As for me, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I walked tall and bowed to no man. And I have not travelled this journey alone. Fellow journalists in other branches of the media walked with me: most of them are now dead, imprisoned without trial or exiled in far-off lands. Others walk in the shadow of death that your Presidency has cast on the freedoms for which you once fought so hard. You will never be allowed to forget that my death took place under your watch. As anguished as I know you will be, I also know that you will have no choice but to protect my killers: you will see to it that the guilty one is never convicted. You have no choice. I feel sorry for you, and Shiranthi will have a long time to spend on her knees when next she goes for Confession for it is not just her owns sins which she must confess, but those of her extended family that keeps you in office.

As for the readers of The Sunday Leader, what can I say but Thank You for supporting our mission. We have espoused unpopular causes, stood up for those too feeble to stand up for themselves, locked horns with the high and mighty so swollen with power that they have forgotten their roots, exposed corruption and the waste of your hard-earned tax rupees, and made sure that whatever the propaganda of the day, you were allowed to hear a contrary view. For this I - and my family - have now paid the price that I have long known I will one day have to pay. I am - and have always been - ready for that. I have done nothing to prevent this outcome: no security, no precautions. I want my murderer to know that I am not a coward like he is, hiding behind human shields while condemning thousands of innocents to death. What am I among so many? It has long been written that my life would be taken, and by whom. All that remains to be written is when.

That The Sunday Leader will continue fighting the good fight, too, is written. For I did not fight this fight alone. Many more of us have to be - and will be - killed before The Leader is laid to rest. I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of your President to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish. Not all the Rajapakses combined can kill that.

People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niem”ller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niem”ller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niem”ller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: The Leader is there for you, be you Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, low-caste, homosexual, dissident or disabled. Its staff will fight on, unbowed and unafraid, with the courage to which you have become accustomed. Do not take that commitment for granted. Let there be no doubt that whatever sacrifices we journalists make, they are not made for our own glory or enrichment: they are made for you. Whether you deserve their sacrifice is another matter. As for me, God knows I tried.

          Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath: How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe   
How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe
Avi Shlaim, The Guardian, 7 Jan 2009

Oxford professor of international relations Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state's legitimacy. But its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions

The only way to make sense of Israel's senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel's vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration's complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.

I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.

Four decades of Israeli control did incalculable damage to the economy of the Gaza Strip. With a large population of 1948 refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land, with no infrastructure or natural resources, Gaza's prospects were never bright. Gaza, however, is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development. To use the Biblical phrase, Israel turned the people of Gaza into the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods. The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence.

Gaza is a classic case of colonial exploitation in the post-colonial era. Jewish settlements in occupied territories are immoral, illegal and an insurmountable obstacle to peace. They are at once the instrument of exploitation and the symbol of the hated occupation. In Gaza, the Jewish settlers numbered only 8,000 in 2005 compared with 1.4 million local residents. Yet the settlers controlled 25% of the territory, 40% of the arable land and the lion's share of the scarce water resources. Cheek by jowl with these foreign intruders, the majority of the local population lived in abject poverty and unimaginable misery. Eighty per cent of them still subsist on less than $2 a day. The living conditions in the strip remain an affront to civilised values, a powerful precipitant to resistance and a fertile breeding ground for political extremism.

In August 2005 a Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon staged a unilateral Israeli pullout from Gaza, withdrawing all 8,000 settlers and destroying the houses and farms they had left behind. Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, conducted an effective campaign to drive the Israelis out of Gaza. The withdrawal was a humiliation for the Israeli Defence Forces. To the world, Sharon presented the withdrawal from Gaza as a contribution to peace based on a two-state solution. But in the year after, another 12,000 Israelis settled on the West Bank, further reducing the scope for an independent Palestinian state. Land-grabbing and peace-making are simply incompatible. Israel had a choice and it chose land over peace.

The real purpose behind the move was to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank to the state of Israel. Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority but a prelude to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank. It was a unilateral Israeli move undertaken in what was seen, mistakenly in my view, as an Israeli national interest. Anchored in a fundamental rejection of the Palestinian national identity, the withdrawal from Gaza was part of a long-term effort to deny the Palestinian people any independent political existence on their land.

Israel's settlers were withdrawn but Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air. Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison.

Israel likes to portray itself as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism. Yet Israel has never in its entire history done anything to promote democracy on the Arab side and has done a great deal to undermine it. Israel has a long history of secret collaboration with reactionary Arab regimes to suppress Palestinian nationalism. Despite all the handicaps, the Palestinian people succeeded in building the only genuine democracy in the Arab world with the possible exception of Lebanon. In January 2006, free and fair elections for the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority brought to power a Hamas-led government. Israel, however, refused to recognise the democratically elected government, claiming that Hamas is purely and simply a terrorist organisation.

America and the EU shamelessly joined Israel in ostracising and demonising the Hamas government and in trying to bring it down by withholding tax revenues and foreign aid. A surreal situation thus developed with a significant part of the international community imposing economic sanctions not against the occupier but against the occupied, not against the oppressor but against the oppressed.

As so often in the tragic history of Palestine, the victims were blamed for their own misfortunes. Israel's propaganda machine persistently purveyed the notion that the Palestinians are terrorists, that they reject coexistence with the Jewish state, that their nationalism is little more than antisemitism, that Hamas is just a bunch of religious fanatics and that Islam is incompatible with democracy. But the simple truth is that the Palestinian people are a normal people with normal aspirations. They are no better but they are no worse than any other national group. What they aspire to, above all, is a piece of land to call their own on which to live in freedom and dignity.

Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political programme following its rise to power. From the ideological rejectionism of its charter, it began to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas.

It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions. In the late 1980s, Israel had supported the nascent Hamas in order to weaken Fatah, the secular nationalist movement led by Yasser Arafat. Now Israel began to encourage the corrupt and pliant Fatah leaders to overthrow their religious political rivals and recapture power. Aggressive American neoconservatives participated in the sinister plot to instigate a Palestinian civil war. Their meddling was a major factor in the collapse of the national unity government and in driving Hamas to seize power in Gaza in June 2007 to pre-empt a Fatah coup.

The war unleashed by Israel on Gaza on 27 December was the culmination of a series of clashes and confrontations with the Hamas government. In a broader sense, however, it is a war between Israel and the Palestinian people, because the people had elected the party to power. The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas and to intensify the pressure until its leaders agree to a new ceasefire on Israel's terms. The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood.

The timing of the war was determined by political expediency. A general election is scheduled for 10 February and, in the lead-up to the election, all the main contenders are looking for an opportunity to prove their toughness. The army top brass had been champing at the bit to deliver a crushing blow to Hamas in order to remove the stain left on their reputation by the failure of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006. Israel's cynical leaders could also count on apathy and impotence of the pro-western Arab regimes and on blind support from President Bush in the twilight of his term in the White House. Bush readily obliged by putting all the blame for the crisis on Hamas, vetoing proposals at the UN Security Council for an immediate ceasefire and issuing Israel with a free pass to mount a ground invasion of Gaza.

As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted - a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, "crying and shooting".

To be sure, Hamas is not an entirely innocent party in this conflict. Denied the fruit of its electoral victory and confronted with an unscrupulous adversary, it has resorted to the weapon of the weak - terror. Militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad kept launching Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli settlements near the border with Gaza until Egypt brokered a six-month ceasefire last June. The damage caused by these primitive rockets is minimal but the psychological impact is immense, prompting the public to demand protection from its government. Under the circumstances, Israel had the right to act in self-defence but its response to the pinpricks of rocket attacks was totally disproportionate. The figures speak for themselves. In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-7 alone, the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.

Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong. This rule applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas, but Israel's entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza. Israel also maintained the blockade of Gaza after the ceasefire came into force which, in the view of the Hamas leaders, amounted to a violation of the agreement. During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.

The brutality of Israel's soldiers is fully matched by the mendacity of its spokesmen. Eight months before launching the current war on Gaza, Israel established a National Information Directorate. The core messages of this directorate to the media are that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements; that Israel's objective is the defence of its population; and that Israel's forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel's spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies.

A wide gap separates the reality of Israel's actions from the rhetoric of its spokesmen. It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It di d so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men. Israel's objective is not just the defence of its population but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza by turning the people against their rulers. And far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel's insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable.

No amount of military escalation can buy Israel immunity from rocket attacks from the military wing of Hamas. Despite all the death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on them, they kept up their resistance and they kept firing their rockets. This is a movement that glorifies victimhood and martyrdom. There is simply no military solution to the conflict between the two communities. The problem with Israel's concept of security is that it denies even the most elementary security to the other community. The only way for Israel to achieve security is not through shooting but through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years. Israel has rejected this offer for the same reason it spurned the Arab League peace plan of 2002, which is still on the table: it involves concessions and compromises.

This brief review of Israel's record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel's real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and of Lion of Jordan: King Hussein's Life in War and Peace.
          China's Charter 08   
China's Charter 08
New York Review of Books
Volume 56, Number 1 · January 15, 2009


Translated from the Chinese by Perry Link

The document below, signed by more than two thousand Chinese citizens, was conceived and written in conscious admiration of the founding of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, where, in January 1977, more than two hundred Czech and Slovak intellectuals formed a
loose, informal, and open association of people...united by the will to strive individually and collectively for respect for human and civil rights in our country and throughout the world.
The Chinese document calls not for ameliorative reform of the current political system but for an end to some of its essential features, including one-party rule, and their replacement with a system based on human rights and democracy.

The prominent citizens who have signed the document are from both outside and inside the government, and include not only well-known dissidents and intellectuals, but also middle-level officials and rural leaders. They chose December 10, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the day on which to express their political ideas and to outline their vision of a constitutional, democratic China. They want Charter 08 to serve as a blueprint for fundamental political change in China in the years to come. The signers of the document will form an informal group, open-ended in size but united by a determination to promote democratization and protection of human rights in China and beyond.

Following the text is a postscript describing some of the regime's recent reactions to it.

—Perry Link
I. FOREWORD

A hundred years have passed since the writing of China's first constitution. 2008 also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the thirtieth anniversary of the appearance of the Democracy Wall in Beijing, and the tenth of China's signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy student protesters. The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

By departing from these values, the Chinese government's approach to "modernization" has proven disastrous. It has stripped people of their rights, destroyed their dignity, and corrupted normal human intercourse. So we ask: Where is China headed in the twenty-first century? Will it continue with "modernization" under authoritarian rule, or will it embrace universal human values, join the mainstream of civilized nations, and build a democratic system? There can be no avoiding these questions.

The shock of the Western impact upon China in the nineteenth century laid bare a decadent authoritarian system and marked the beginning of what is often called "the greatest changes in thousands of years" for China. A "self-strengthening movement" followed, but this aimed simply at appropriating the technology to build gunboats and other Western material objects. China's humiliating naval defeat at the hands of Japan in 1895 only confirmed the obsolescence of China's system of government. The first attempts at modern political change came with the ill-fated summer of reforms in 1898, but these were cruelly crushed by ultraconservatives at China's imperial court. With the revolution of 1911, which inaugurated Asia's first republic, the authoritarian imperial system that had lasted for centuries was finally supposed to have been laid to rest. But social conflict inside our country and external pressures were to prevent it; China fell into a patchwork of warlord fiefdoms and the new republic became a fleeting dream.

The failure of both "self- strengthening" and political renovation caused many of our forebears to reflect deeply on whether a "cultural illness" was afflicting our country. This mood gave rise, during the May Fourth Movement of the late 1910s, to the championing of "science and democracy." Yet that effort, too, foundered as warlord chaos persisted and the Japanese invasion [beginning in Manchuria in 1931] brought national crisis.

Victory over Japan in 1945 offered one more chance for China to move toward modern government, but the Communist defeat of the Nationalists in the civil war thrust the nation into the abyss of totalitarianism. The "new China" that emerged in 1949 proclaimed that "the people are sovereign" but in fact set up a system in which "the Party is all-powerful." The Communist Party of China seized control of all organs of the state and all political, economic, and social resources, and, using these, has produced a long trail of human rights disasters, including, among many others, the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957), the Great Leap Forward (1958–1960), the Cultural Revolution (1966–1969), the June Fourth [Tiananmen Square] Massacre (1989), and the current repression of all unauthorized religions and the suppression of the weiquan rights movement [a movement that aims to defend citizens' rights promulgated in the Chinese Constitution and to fight for human rights recognized by international conventions that the Chinese government has signed]. During all this, the Chinese people have paid a gargantuan price. Tens of millions have lost their lives, and several generations have seen their freedom, their happiness, and their human dignity cruelly trampled.

During the last two decades of the twentieth century the government policy of "Reform and Opening" gave the Chinese people relief from the pervasive poverty and totalitarianism of the Mao Zedong era, and brought substantial increases in the wealth and living standards of many Chinese as well as a partial restoration of economic freedom and economic rights. Civil society began to grow, and popular calls for more rights and more political freedom have grown apace. As the ruling elite itself moved toward private ownership and the market economy, it began to shift from an outright rejection of "rights" to a partial acknowledgment of them.

In 1998 the Chinese government signed two important international human rights conventions; in 2004 it amended its constitution to include the phrase "respect and protect human rights"; and this year, 2008, it has promised to promote a "national human rights action plan." Unfortunately most of this political progress has extended no further than the paper on which it is written. The political reality, which is plain for anyone to see, is that China has many laws but no rule of law; it has a constitution but no constitutional government. The ruling elite continues to cling to its authoritarian power and fights off any move toward political change.

The stultifying results are endemic official corruption, an undermining of the rule of law, weak human rights, decay in public ethics, crony capitalism, growing inequality between the wealthy and the poor, pillage of the natural environment as well as of the human and historical environments, and the exacerbation of a long list of social conflicts, especially, in recent times, a sharpening animosity between officials and ordinary people.

As these conflicts and crises grow ever more intense, and as the ruling elite continues with impunity to crush and to strip away the rights of citizens to freedom, to property, and to the pursuit of happiness, we see the powerless in our society—the vulnerable groups, the people who have been suppressed and monitored, who have suffered cruelty and even torture, and who have had no adequate avenues for their protests, no courts to hear their pleas—becoming more militant and raising the possibility of a violent conflict of disastrous proportions. The decline of the current system has reached the point where change is no longer optional.

II. OUR FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES

This is a historic moment for China, and our future hangs in the balance. In reviewing the political modernization process of the past hundred years or more, we reiterate and endorse basic universal values as follows:

Freedom. Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. Without freedom, China will always remain far from civilized ideals.

Human rights. Human rights are not bestowed by a state. Every person is born with inherent rights to dignity and freedom. The government exists for the protection of the human rights of its citizens. The exercise of state power must be authorized by the people. The succession of political disasters in China's recent history is a direct consequence of the ruling regime's disregard for human rights.

Equality. The integrity, dignity, and freedom of every person—regardless of social station, occupation, sex, economic condition, ethnicity, skin color, religion, or political belief—are the same as those of any other. Principles of equality before the law and equality of social, economic, cultural, civil, and political rights must be upheld.

Republicanism. Republicanism, which holds that power should be balanced among different branches of government and competing interests should be served, resembles the traditional Chinese political ideal of "fairness in all under heaven." It allows different interest groups and social assemblies, and people with a variety of cultures and beliefs, to exercise democratic self-government and to deliberate in order to reach peaceful resolution of public questions on a basis of equal access to government and free and fair competition.

Democracy. The most fundamental principles of democracy are that the people are sovereign and the people select their government. Democracy has these characteristics: (1) Political power begins with the people and the legitimacy of a regime derives from the people. (2) Political power is exercised through choices that the people make. (3) The holders of major official posts in government at all levels are determined through periodic competitive elections. (4) While honoring the will of the majority, the fundamental dignity, freedom, and human rights of minorities are protected. In short, democracy is a modern means for achieving government truly "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Constitutional rule. Constitutional rule is rule through a legal system and legal regulations to implement principles that are spelled out in a constitution. It means protecting the freedom and the rights of citizens, limiting and defining the scope of legitimate government power, and providing the administrative apparatus necessary to serve these ends.

III. WHAT WE ADVOCATE

Authoritarianism is in general decline throughout the world; in China, too, the era of emperors and overlords is on the way out. The time is arriving everywhere for citizens to be masters of states. For China the path that leads out of our current predicament is to divest ourselves of the authoritarian notion of reliance on an "enlightened overlord" or an "honest official" and to turn instead toward a system of liberties, democracy, and the rule of law, and toward fostering the consciousness of modern citizens who see rights as fundamental and participation as a duty. Accordingly, and in a spirit of this duty as responsible and constructive citizens, we offer the following recommendations on national governance, citizens' rights, and social development:

1. A New Constitution. We should recast our present constitution, rescinding its provisions that contradict the principle that sovereignty resides with the people and turning it into a document that genuinely guarantees human rights, authorizes the exercise of public power, and serves as the legal underpinning of China's democratization. The constitution must be the highest law in the land, beyond violation by any individual, group, or political party.

2. Separation of Powers. We should construct a modern government in which the separation of legislative, judicial, and executive power is guaranteed. We need an Administrative Law that defines the scope of government responsibility and prevents abuse of administrative power. Government should be responsible to taxpayers. Division of power between provincial governments and the central government should adhere to the principle that central powers are only those specifically granted by the constitution and all other powers belong to the local governments.

3. Legislative Democracy. Members of legislative bodies at all levels should be chosen by direct election, and legislative democracy should observe just and impartial principles.

4. An Independent Judiciary. The rule of law must be above the interests of any particular political party and judges must be independent. We need to establish a constitutional supreme court and institute procedures for constitutional review. As soon as possible, we should abolish all of the Committees on Political and Legal Affairs that now allow Communist Party officials at every level to decide politically sensitive cases in advance and out of court. We should strictly forbid the use of public offices for private purposes.

5. Public Control of Public Servants. The military should be made answerable to the national government, not to a political party, and should be made more professional. Military personnel should swear allegiance to the constitution and remain nonpartisan. Political party organizations must be prohibited in the military. All public officials including police should serve as nonpartisans, and the current practice of favoring one political party in the hiring of public servants must end.

6. Guarantee of Human Rights. There must be strict guarantees of human rights and respect for human dignity. There should be a Human Rights Committee, responsible to the highest legislative body, that will prevent the government from abusing public power in violation of human rights. A democratic and constitutional China especially must guarantee the personal freedom of citizens. No one should suffer illegal arrest, detention, arraignment, interrogation, or punishment. The system of "Reeducation through Labor" must be abolished.

7. Election of Public Officials. There should be a comprehensive system of democratic elections based on "one person, one vote." The direct election of administrative heads at the levels of county, city, province, and nation should be systematically implemented. The rights to hold periodic free elections and to participate in them as a citizen are inalienable.

8. Rural–Urban Equality. The two-tier household registry system must be abolished. This system favors urban residents and harms rural residents. We should establish instead a system that gives every citizen the same constitutional rights and the same freedom to choose where to live.

9. Freedom to Form Groups. The right of citizens to form groups must be guaranteed. The current system for registering nongovernment groups, which requires a group to be "approved," should be replaced by a system in which a group simply registers itself. The formation of political parties should be governed by the constitution and the laws, which means that we must abolish the special privilege of one party to monopolize power and must guarantee principles of free and fair competition among political parties.

10. Freedom to Assemble. The constitution provides that peaceful assembly, demonstration, protest, and freedom of expression are fundamental rights of a citizen. The ruling party and the government must not be permitted to subject these to illegal interference or unconstitutional obstruction.

11. Freedom of Expression. We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision. These freedoms should be upheld by a Press Law that abolishes political restrictions on the press. The provision in the current Criminal Law that refers to "the crime of incitement to subvert state power" must be abolished. We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.

12. Freedom of Religion. We must guarantee freedom of religion and belief, and institute a separation of religion and state. There must be no governmental interference in peaceful religious activities. We should abolish any laws, regulations, or local rules that limit or suppress the religious freedom of citizens. We should abolish the current system that requires religious groups (and their places of worship) to get official approval in advance and substitute for it a system in which registry is optional and, for those who choose to register, automatic.

13. Civic Education. In our schools we should abolish political curriculums and examinations that are designed to indoctrinate students in state ideology and to instill support for the rule of one party. We should replace them with civic education that advances universal values and citizens' rights, fosters civic consciousness, and promotes civic virtues that serve society.

14. Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

15. Financial and Tax Reform. We should establish a democratically regulated and accountable system of public finance that ensures the protection of taxpayer rights and that operates through legal procedures. We need a system by which public revenues that belong to a certain level of government—central, provincial, county or local—are controlled at that level. We need major tax reform that will abolish any unfair taxes, simplify the tax system, and spread the tax burden fairly. Government officials should not be able to raise taxes, or institute new ones, without public deliberation and the approval of a democratic assembly. We should reform the ownership system in order to encourage competition among a wider variety of market participants.

16. Social Security. We should establish a fair and adequate social security system that covers all citizens and ensures basic access to education, health care, retirement security, and employment.

17. Protection of the Environment. We need to protect the natural environment and to promote development in a way that is sustainable and responsible to our descendants and to the rest of humanity. This means insisting that the state and its officials at all levels not only do what they must do to achieve these goals, but also accept the supervision and participation of nongovernmental organizations.

18. A Federated Republic. A democratic China should seek to act as a responsible major power contributing toward peace and development in the Asian Pacific region by approaching others in a spirit of equality and fairness. In Hong Kong and Macao, we should support the freedoms that already exist. With respect to Taiwan, we should declare our commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy and then, negotiating as equals and ready to compromise, seek a formula for peaceful unification. We should approach disputes in the national-minority areas of China with an open mind, seeking ways to find a workable framework within which all ethnic and religious groups can flourish. We should aim ultimately at a federation of democratic communities of China.

19. Truth in Reconciliation. We should restore the reputations of all people, including their family members, who suffered political stigma in the political campaigns of the past or who have been labeled as criminals because of their thought, speech, or faith. The state should pay reparations to these people. All political prisoners and prisoners of conscience must be released. There should be a Truth Investigation Commission charged with finding the facts about past injustices and atrocities, determining responsibility for them, upholding justice, and, on these bases, seeking social reconciliation.

China, as a major nation of the world, as one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and as a member of the UN Council on Human Rights, should be contributing to peace for humankind and progress toward human rights. Unfortunately, we stand today as the only country among the major nations that remains mired in authoritarian politics. Our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises, thereby not only constricting China's own development but also limiting the progress of all of human civilization. This must change, truly it must. The democratization of Chinese politics can be put off no longer.

Accordingly, we dare to put civic spirit into practice by announcing Charter 08. We hope that our fellow citizens who feel a similar sense of crisis, responsibility, and mission, whether they are inside the government or not, and regardless of their social status, will set aside small differences to embrace the broad goals of this citizens' movement. Together we can work for major changes in Chinese society and for the rapid establishment of a free, democratic, and constitutional country. We can bring to reality the goals and ideals that our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years, and can bring a brilliant new chapter to Chinese civilization.
POSTSCRIPT

The planning and drafting of Charter 08 began in the late spring of 2008, but Chinese authorities were apparently unaware of it or unconcerned by it until several days before it was announced on December 10. On December 6, Wen Kejian, a writer who signed the charter, was detained in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China and questioned for about an hour. Police told Wen that Charter 08 was "different" from earlier dissident statements, and "a fairly grave matter." They said there would be a coordinated investigation in all cities and provinces to "root out the organizers," and they advised Wen to remove his name from the charter. Wen declined, telling the authorities that he saw the charter as a fundamental turning point in history.

Meanwhile, on December 8, in Shenzhen in the far south of China, police called on Zhao Dagong, a writer and signer of the charter, for a "chat." They told Zhao that the central authorities were concerned about the charter and asked if he was the organizer in the Shenzhen area.

Later on December 8, at 11 PM in Beijing, about twenty police entered the home of Zhang Zuhua, one of the charter's main drafters. A few of the police took Zhang with them to the local police station while the rest stayed and, as Zhang's wife watched, searched the home and confiscated books, notebooks, Zhang's passport, all four of the family's computers, and all of their cash and credit cards. (Later Zhang learned that his family's bank accounts, including those of both his and his wife's parents, had been emptied.) Meanwhile, at the police station, Zhang was detained for twelve hours, where he was questioned in detail about Charter 08 and the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders in which he is active.

It was also late on December 8 that another of the charter's signers, the literary critic and prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo, was taken away by police. His telephone in Beijing went unanswered, as did e-mail and Skype messages sent to him. As of the present writing, he's believed to be in police custody, although the details of his detention are not known.

On the morning of December 9, Beijing lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was called in for a police "chat," and in the evening the physicist and philosopher Jiang Qisheng was called in as well. Both had signed the charter and were friends of the drafters. On December 10—the day the charter was formally announced—the Hangzhou police returned to the home of Wen Kejian, the writer they had questioned four days earlier. This time they were more threatening. They told Wen he would face severe punishment if he wrote about the charter or about Liu Xiaobo's detention. "Do you want three years in prison?" they asked. "Or four?"

On December 11 the journalist Gao Yu and the writer Liu Di, both well-known in Beijing, were interrogated about their signing of the Charter. The rights lawyer, Teng Biao, was approached by the police but declined, on principle, to meet with them. On December 12 and 13 there were reports of interrogations in many provinces—Shaanxi, Hunan, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, and others—of people who had seen the charter on the Internet, found that they agreed with it, and signed. With these people the police focused on two questions: "How did you get involved?" and "What do you know about the drafters and organizers?"

The Chinese authorities seem unaware of the irony of their actions. Their efforts to quash Charter 08 only serve to underscore China's failure to uphold the very principles that the charter advances. The charter calls for "free expression" but the regime says, by its actions, that it has once again denied such expression. The charter calls for freedom to form groups, but the nationwide police actions that have accompanied the charter's release have specifically aimed at blocking the formation of a group. The charter says "we should end the practice of viewing words as crimes," and the regime says (literally, to Wen Kejian) "we can send you to prison for these words." The charter calls for the rule of law and the regime sends police in the middle of the night to act outside the law; the charter says "police should serve as nonpartisans," and here the police are plainly partisan.

Charter 08 is signed only by citizens of the People's Republic of China who are living inside China. But Chinese living outside China are signing a letter of strong support for the charter. The eminent historian Yu Ying-shih, the astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, writers Ha Jin and Zheng Yi, and more than 160 others have so far signed.

On December 12, the Dalai Lama issued his own letter in support of the charter, writing that "a harmonious society can only come into being when there is trust among the people, freedom from fear, freedom of expression, rule of law, justice, and equality." He called on the Chinese government to release prisoners "who have been detained for exercising their freedom of expression."

—Perry Link, December 18, 2008
          After winning 13 year court battle, Malaysian human rights activist plans to run for parliament   
When it comes to persecuting activists, the Singapore government is no different from their Malaysian counterparts. Just to mention some very recent examples, see my posts here, here and here.


Rights Champion Seeks Political Career
By Baradan Kuppusamy


KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 (IPS) - After winning a gruelling 13-year court battle to avoid being jailed on charges of maliciously publishing false news, Malaysia's best-known human rights champion seeks a political career to continue defending migrant workers and other vulnerable sections of society.

"I refused to yield, I was focused and relentless and in the end won," said Irene Fernandez, executive director of Tenaganita, a leading human rights non-government organisation (NGO) that has a reputation for defending migrant workers against ill treatment and exploitation.

"It is also a major victory for human rights activism," she told IPS in an interview. "The authorities now know that we will fight and fight good and hard and will not be cowed."

Fernandez now plans to run for parliament. "It’s important that I have the opportunity to be a member of parliament, to be a voice for the communities that I have been working with," she said.

It was widely believed by diplomats, the political opposition and human rights organisations that Fernandez was targeted by the authorities for her persistent efforts to protect and champion legions of Asian migrant workers from mistreatment and exploitation by employers, a vigilante force called ‘RELA’ and other enforcement agencies.

Her ordeal began in 1996 when she was charged under Section 8A (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, with publishing "false news" -- a serious crime in Malaysia punishable with a mandatory one year in prison.

That year she had circulated a memorandum to the media, foreign missions and international human rights organisations in which she drew attention to deplorable conditions in overcrowded detention centres and the shoddy treatment meted out to migrant workers.

She alleged, in the memorandum, that migrant workers were mistreated, poorly fed, abused and regularly beaten.

The memorandum, based on research conducted by her staff and other experts, sparked an international outcry that severely embarrassed the government, but brought immediate relief to depressed migrant workers.

The government took steps to improve camp conditions, provide more nutritious food and medicine and assure the international community but charged Fernandez in court.

After a long and harrowing trial and despite international objections, she was found guilty in 2003 and sentenced to the mandatory one year in jail.

She appealed the sentence immediately but for five years she was dragged from one court to another as her appeal suffered numerous delays and postponements.

On Nov. 24, eight years after she filed her appeal, the Attorney General finally made the decision to withdraw the charge on the grounds that the appeal record was incomprehensible.

At one point in the appeal the court was informed that notes of evidence of important prosecution witnesses were missing. Later the notes were miraculously found but not legible. Further delays occurred after a computer virus wiped out notes required for the trial.

"The trial and sentence were hanging over me like a sword for 13 years," Fernandez said. "I suffered hugely but remained unbowed."

"The 13-year long trial was a heavy burden. I could not travel, stand for elections, raise funds or even speak at some forums," Fernandez,62, recalled. "This is a case of political persecution designed to force me to give up on my campaigns and retire."

By persecuting her the authorities had wanted NGOs to do charity work and leave advocacy and political activism alone, Fernandez said.

"They wanted to cow human rights activists by making an example out of me," she said. "They wanted to show the people that rights activism is dangerous and dirty work and anti-national."

She has vowed to step up her work helping migrant workers, women and HIV/AIDS campaigns.

"The struggle is far from over...there is a significant rise in the number of cases of sexual and physical abuse, torture of migrant workers," she said. "Conditions at detention centres and prisons remain deplorable."

"In fact the struggle has just started with the world economy in turmoil and millions of migrant workers on the front line of unemployment," she said adding that nearly four million -- legal and undocumented-- Asian migrant workers in Malaysia might end up being jobless if the turmoil persist.

In 2005 Fernandez won the Right Livelihood Award -- the alternative Nobel Prize -- in recognition of her wide-ranging human rights activism. "Migrants are human beings. They have the same rights as all of us.’’

"It is bad that Fernandez had to suffer for 13 years before justice was finally granted,’’ said Bar Council chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan. "The ordeal is over for her but for the Malaysian judiciary the journey ahead is long to regain its lustre as an equal and capable branch of a democratic government."

"If Malaysia had respected rights, freedom, democracy and an independent judiciary the system would have never charged her in the first place," said Brad Adams, Asia director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"It is a trial where freedom of expression was challenged, where human rights defender is criminalised and where there is absolute disregard for the rights of detainees and minorities like migrant workers and refugees," he said.
          28 year old Burmese blogger, Nay Phone Latt, sentenced to 20 years in prison   
Two reports about Nay Phone Latt,

Young Burmese Blogger Sentenced to more than 20 Years in Jail
By SAW YAN NAING, The Irrawaddy, Monday, November 10, 2008


A young Burmese blogger who was a major source of information for the outside world on the brutal regime crackdown on the September 2007 uprising was sentenced to 20 years and six months imprisonment on Monday.

Nay Phone Latt, 28, was sentenced by a court in Rangoon’s Insein Prison, according to his mother, Aye Than. He was convicted of contravening Public Offense Act 505 B by posting a cartoon depicting junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe on his blog site.

Nay Phone Latt’s colleague Thin July Kyaw was sentenced to two years imprisonment, Aye Than reported.

Another dissident who ridiculed the regime, Saw Wai, was sentenced to two years imprisonment for publishing a poem mocking Than Shwe in the weekly Love Journal, according to Rangoon sources. The first words of each line of the Burmese language poem spelled out the message “Senior General Than Shwe is foolish with power.”

Nay Phone Latt’s blogs during the September 2007 uprising provided invaluable information about events within the locked-down country.

Two Rangoon journalists, Htun Htun Thein and Khin Maung Aye, of the privately-owned weekly News Watch, were arrested on November 5 and are being detained in Insein Prison. The media rights organizations Reporters without Borders and Burma Media Association have demanded their immediate release.

The current regime crackdown is also aimed at silencing legal attempts to ensure fair trials for dissidents now appearing before judges in closed court sessions.

Two weeks ago, three defense lawyers, Nyi Nyi Htwe, Aung Thein and Khin Maung Shein were imprisoned for between four and six months for contempt of court after complaining of unfair treatment.

Four other defense lawyers, Kyaw Hoe, Maung Maung Latt, Myint Thaung and Khin Htay Kyew have been barred from representing their clients since November 5, according to Kyaw Hoe. The lawyers are representing several dissidents, including members of the 88 Generation Students group.

“I asked a prison authority why I was not allowed to appear in court,” said Kyaw Hoe. “He said there was no reason and that the order had come from higher officials.”

Members of the 88 Generation Students group were now appearing daily in court without their defense lawyers, Kyaw Hoe said.

Two lawyers, Myint Thaung and Khin Htay Kyi, who represent the prominent labor activist Su Su Nway, withdrew from court proceedings at the weekend, citing unfair treatment, according to the accused’s sister, Htay Htay Kyi.

Htay Htay Kyi said Su Su Nway would be sentenced on Tuesday. The winner of the 2006 John Humphrey Freedom Award was originally charged with “threatening the stability of the government,” under articles 124, 130 and 505 of the penal code, but new charges have now been added.

In a statement in Washington, the US State Department criticized the imprisonment of the four defense lawyers and urged the Burmese regime to drop all charges and release them.

Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood called on the junta to stop harassing and arresting citizens for peacefully practicing their internationally recognized human rights, to release all political prisoners, and to start a genuine dialogue with democratic forces and ethnic minority groups for democratic reform in Burma.

Court sentenced blogger for over 20 years, poet for two years
by Than Htike Oo, Mizzima News, Monday, 10 November 2008


Chiang Mai – A court in Rangoon's notorious Insein prison on Monday has sentenced a popular Blogger Nay Phone Latt to over 20 years in prison.

Nay Phone Latt, who was arrested on 29 January, on Monday was sentenced by the Insein prison court on three counts including charges under section 505 (b) of the Penal Code - crime against public tranquillity.

The Blogger's mother Aye Aye Than, told Mizzima that her son was sentenced to two years under section 505(b) of the Penal Code, three and half years under sections 32(b)/36 of the Video Law and 15 years under section 33(a)/38 of the Electronic Law.

"We were waiting outside during the court proceedings and after the court session we asked the judge about the quantum of punishment. The judge and prosecutor informed us regarding the judgement," she said.

The 28-years-old, Nay Phone Latt, a famous blogger, is also a youth member of Burma's main opposition party - National League for Democracy. He runs internet cafés in several townships in Rangoon including "The Explorer" in Pabedan Township, and "Heaven" in Thingangyun Township.

His mother Aye Aye Than said that she had no idea why they had sentenced her son to such a long term in prison.

"He is the first ever blogger to be arrested in Burma. I have no idea why they punished my son with such a harsh judgement. Blogging is perhaps a very serious crime in the opinion of the authorities," his mother said.

Meanwhile, Nay Phone Latt's defense counsel, Aung Thein, was also sentenced to four months prison-term in absentia on November 7, for a charge of contempt of the court.

Similarly, poet Saw Wei was also sentenced to two years in prison on Monday with charges of 'inducing crime against public tranquillity'.

He was arrested in February, after his poem entitled 'February 14' was published in the Weekly 'Ah Chit' (love) Journal. In his Burmese poem, putting together of the first words of all the lines spells out 'Power Crazy Snr. Gen.Than Shwe', which provokes the authorities and he was immediately arrested.

"I am worried about his health. I want to arrange proper medical treatment outside the prison for him, where X-ray facility would be available in order to diagnose his back and waist pain. Currently, he cannot get these treatments inside the prison. He has to cover his body with a towel all the time. This morning too at the court, he could not sit for a long time and had to stand up frequently to ease his pain when speaking," Saw Wai's wife told Mizzima.

Soe Maung, the defense counsel of Saw Wai said, despite of the court's verdict, he will continue filing appeals for revision, as he thinks the trial were not free and fair enough.

"We will file an appeal against this judgment at all levels of the courts including an appeal for a revision case. We intend to do as much as the law and judicial proceedings permit us to, within the legal framework, until we reach the last stage. I am preparing for an appeal on my client's instruction," Soe Maung said.

Meanwhile, media watchdogs the Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) and Burma Media Association (BMA) has slam the junta for its unfair trials on the two writers – Nay Phone Latt and Saw Wai – and the verdict to sentenced them.

The two organisations said, they are appalled by the combined sentence of 20 years and six months in prison that a special court in Insein prison passed on Nay Phone Latt and two years to poet Saw Wai.

"This shocking sentence is meant to terrify those who go online in an attempt to elude the dictatorship's ubiquitous control of news and information, and we call for his immediate release. Saw Wai, for his part, is being made to pay for his impertinence and courage as a committed poet," the two organisations said in a press statement.

The two media watchdogs also call on all bloggers and poets around the world to show their solidarity towards Nay Phone Latt and Saw Wai.

"There is an urgent need now for bloggers all over the world to demonstrate their solidarity with Nay Phone Latt by posing his photo on their blogs and by writing to Burmese embassies worldwide to request his release. Similarly, we call on poets to defend their fellow-poet, Saw Wai, who has been jailed just because of one poem," said the two organisations.
          "Remembering 10-Eleven" rally in Malaysia disrupted by police, 24 arrested (includes videos)   
The Remembering 10-Eleven rally yesterday was disrupted by police and 24 were arrested.

10-Eleven refers to 10 Nov 2007 when thousands of Malaysians took to the streets in peaceful protest,


This video shows what happened yesterday night,



Public gatherings are a democratic right, says Zaid

Kuala Lumpur, November 10- Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim today criticized the harsh measures taken by the police last night in cracking down on the Bersih rally in Petaling Jaya.

"A public gathering for the people to show their emotions and desires is one of the natural aspects in a democracy," he added.

Datuk Zaid Ibrahim believes that the police must realize that the public have a right to express their opinions and peaceful assemblies must be tolerated like in any other democracies.

By denying this right, he said Malaysia was reverting to the manners of its colonial masters.

Police arrested more than 20 people and allegedly manhandled MP Tony Pua and other other community leaders.

More than 250 people had gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the Bersih rally.

Zaid argued that the police should not have forcefully dispersed the crowd as a similar rally was held in Ipoh the night before and the police had allowed the event to take place.

He said the police and the higher authorities should not be mistaken that more force will bring an end to future gatherings.

Meanwhile, the DAP has also slammed Inspector General Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan for the arrests and the crackdown, pointing out that on the same night a Mat Rempit mob assaulted five people in Kuala Lumpur.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament, parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang said that Musa "has lost his sense of priorities" resulting in a rise from 156,315 criminal cases in 2003 to 209,559 last year, an increase of 34 per cent.

The rally had seen the arrest of PJ Utara MP Tony Pua, Selangor exco Ronnie Liu and Kampung Tunku assemblyman Lau Weng San as well as two members of the press and a Catholic parish priest.

Several newspapers reported that a Mat Rempit mob on Jalan Loke Yew beat five people unconscious after in the aftermath of another accident where an off-duty policeman allegedly made an illegal U-turn leading to the death of a motorcyclist and serious injury to five others.

"The police under Musa have got its priorities misplaced and this is illustrated in a most outrageous manner by what happened in the last 24 hours," Lim said, referring to the two events.

"What has Musa to say about the disgraceful mayhem where mob rule imposed a regime of sheer lawlessness without any police presence or intervention?" he said.

The Ipoh Timur MP also poured scorn on Musa's statement in The Star today, where the police chief assured the public "that the security of the country was very much under control" as the crime rate is not expected to increase this year.

"This is like a student who has scored an F7 for a subject last year still being proud he is still getting an F7 this year," Lim rebuked.
          BigDL Democratizes Deep Learning Innovation   

Deep learning—a subset of machine learning and a key technique of artificial intelligence (AI)—is the most rapidly growing area of AI innovation. Big data and deep learning are technologies cut from the same cloth. They’re both enabled by the explosion of data brought about by the digital world.  But to deal effectively with mountains of ...continue reading BigDL Democratizes Deep Learning Innovation

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          Giving a voice to civil society in Education 2030    

For Camilla Croso, civil society’s active engagement at the global level should always be rooted in national activities.

As President of the Global Campaign for Education, Ms Croso has been involved in various discussions, debates and mechanisms on education, carrying civil society’s voice to the highest levels. She sat down with UNESCO to give an overview of the role civil society plays in the new global education architecture and the challenges ahead.

Education 2030 calls for the involvement of all stakeholders in the planning, implementation and monitoring of education policies and strategies. How can civil society strengthen good governance in education?

Advocating for democratic governance in education is a core priority for civil society. Although there seems to be a consensus that Civil Society Organizations’ (CSO) active participation- including that of teacher and student-led organizations- in debate, policy-making and monitoring is of fundamental importance, in practice this is still far from a reality. While we can observe progress at the international, and to some extent regional level, it is at the national level that progress most lags behind, with teachers and students’ organizations more often than not lacking space to express their opinions.

The Education 2030 Framework for Action  encourages governments to ensure the existence of institutionalized spaces and processes for education policy dialogue, decision-making and monitoring. This ensures that legal and policy frameworks, as well as practices reflect the overall orientation of the people, of collective actors and different education stakeholders. 

You are very involved at the global and UN level. How do you think civil society can influence the implementation of SDG4 at this level. In your view, what role can civil society play regarding holding stakeholders accountable at global level?

CSOs must participate actively in the global spaces that are in place, but always be sure that this action is rooted at the national level. Their role should be to both take national perspectives to the global level but also to take the global perspectives to the national level to follow up on commitments and recommendations. This constant flux between the different levels leverages CSO actions and impacts. In this sense, they must seek to engage in the development of national voluntary reports, or carry out ‘spotlight’ reports that shed light onto crucial issues for example.

At the global level, important Sustainable Development Goals follow-up and accountability mechanisms have been established that allow for State monitoring implementation of the whole SDGs set. Regarding SDG4 in particular, we have the architecture revolving around the Education 2030 Framework for Action, composed of a Steering Committee, in which civil society has permanent representation, Global Education Meetings and a Global Education Monitoring Report to keep track of progress, identify bottlenecks and tackle them. Very recently, an Education and Academia Stakeholder Group (EASG) has been established, which allows education CSOs and academia, to engage in these follow-up and monitoring processes.

Also, CSOs  should advocate for an increased effort to establish inter-sectorial dialogue in the coming years. Inter-sectorial dialogue is of crucial importance because there are issues in the 2030 Agenda that crosscut the different sectors and which must be tackled collectively.

Financing is one of the major issue regarding education. How can civil society ensure that financial resources are being used efficiently and equitably and reaching the most vulnerable populations and the least developed countries?

Resources to education should be constitutionally protected and earmarked, with countries committing towards allocating at least 6% of GDP to education and ensuring that levels are maintained even during moments of crisis.

In poorer countries, and in countries that still face significant challenges in access, quality and equity, an even greater sum may be necessary, as studies in Brazil and El Salvador have shown.

CSOs play an important role not only in advocating for appropriate levels of education investment, be it at the executive or the legislative spheres, but also in promoting debate, information-sharing, awareness-raising and capacity-building among citizens. This includes action around the entire budgetary cycle, from its definition, to its approval and execution.  Financial data must be made publicly available in a transparent and timely manner to inform debates and decision-making processes. This is critical for ensuring budgets promote equity and reach the most excluded groups. . Hand in hand with advocating towards increased levels of domestic financing for education, CSOs must engage with tax justice networks and campaigns, working in alliance and within an inter-sectorial perspective.

At the global level, CSOs must engage more in pushing for global taxation mechanisms and bodies, as has been previously attempted during the Financing for Development Conference and during the 2016 Global Action Week for Education, as a key mechanism for SDG financing.

Education is an enabling right, promoter of social, economic, human, and environmental development. It is critical for social cohesion and resilience.

The Global Campaign for Education is a civil society movement created in 1999. It is comprised of a huge variety of national, regional and international civil society organizations, teachers’ unions and child rights campaigners that aim to end the global education crisis. It is one of civil society representatives to the SDG – Education 2030 Steering Committee.

The civil society movement is a member of the Global SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, which convened on 29-30 June 2017 in New York. 


          National Endowment for Democracy deplores Chinese government treatment of Liu Xiaobo   
The National Endowment for Democracy deplores the unconscionable medical neglect suffered by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo during his unjust imprisonment since 2009 for his efforts to advance democratic reform in China.  It was announced this week that Liu would be granted medical parole due to terminal, late-stage liver cancer.  Liu was the co-recipient of NED’s 2014 Democracy Award along with acclaimed legal scholar Xu Zhiyong, who remains in prison, pending the completion of his four-year sentence on July 15. 
          Even MSNBC is Calling Out Hillary Clinton Now for What She’s Been Saying   

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CNN has not grown tired of pushing the unproven Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory, even though big names at the network are doubting it themselves, according to Project Veritas’ undercover videos.

But one major U.S. politician has not tired of blaming a Trump-Russia tie for her defeat — former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It’s getting to the point, though, where even MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell — who seemed to adore Hillary during the campaign — is calling her out for repeating the same, tired lines during a recent speech.

Speaking in front of cameras, Mitchell seemed to have trouble relating the details of the twisted, rambling conspiracy theory that Hillary wove.

“She, first of all, really drilled down on the fake news, the role of InfoWars, and said that it was very clear to her that there were Americans directing and colluding — and conspiring, really — with the Russian hackers, with Guccifer, with the others who were involved in the hacking, and the dropping of WikiLeaks only an hour after the Access Hollywood tape was disclosed, and saying that they were doing so with such political sophistication. She was basically pointing to the Trump campaign, saying that the dots are now being connected in the investigation,” Mitchell explained.

“She mentioned...” Mitchell began, before stifling a laugh, “...Jared Kushner. She mentioned [Steve] Bannon and Kellyanne Conway in the context of the fact that the Mercers, the big fundraisers who contributed to the campaign and owned Cambridge [Analytica], as part of the deal, and that they connected with the databank in the RNC.”

Mitchell concluded, “So she is drawing a conspiracy theory. She doesn’t have the evidence….”

Watch as conservative media analyst Mark Dice presents what Mitchell said and shows how this is nothing new for Hillary:

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          CNN Hit With More Bad News After Newest Undercover Video   

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Just days after he released bombshell undercover footage of CNN that confirmed everything President Trump and conservatives have been saying about the “very fake news” network, James O’Keefe of Project Veritas released more evidence that puts CNN in a very bad light.

O’Keefe’s first video, released Monday, showed a supervising producer unknowingly revealing to an undercover Veritas reporter that CNN has little regard for journalistic ethics, will do just about anything to get better ratings, has very little faith in the whole Trump-Russia collusion theory but pushes it anyway, caters to its liberal viewers, and scrutinizes Trump far more than they ever did President Obama.

Although the mainstream media tried to ignore the video on Tuesday, it quickly rose to the #1 trending spot on YouTube. Soon after, the Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders urged all Americans during her live press briefing to watch the video.

O’Keefe’s second video showed CNN contributor Van Jones confirming that there’s really nothing to the Russia story. We have not published the videos here because of the crude language used by people caught on camera at CNN, but you can watch them on Veritas’ YouTube channel.

Now in his third video, released Friday, O’Keefe’s undercover reporter spoke with Jimmy Carr, CNN’s associate producer for Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota’s morning show “New Day.” While downing a drink, Carr first admitted that CNN is only impartial “in theory.”

Next he revealed that he thinks 90% of his coworkers at CNN believes what he does: That Trump is completely insane and cares nothing about America. To top that off, when asked about the intellect of the average American voter, he said — to put it kindly — that they’re all complete idiots.

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If that truly is the tone of 90% of people at CNN, then it’s easy to see why they have such a liberal, anti-Trump bias.

O’Keefe also obtained unused audio from an interview Camerota did with six Trump supporters 60 days after he took office. In the portion aired for TV, one of the Trump supporters is seemingly stumped when Camerota asks him for evidence of rampant voter fraud in America by Democrats. What was cut, though, is what Trump supporter William Baer said next.

“I mean, has anybody looked into, like what James O’Keefe has done? When he went undercover to those various polling places?” he asked.

He then went on to describe how O’Keefe was able to illegally register to vote in a state without anyone questioning him. It’s an experiment O’Keefe and his undercover reporters have filmed themselves successfully conducting numerous times.

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But CNN left all that out.

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          Nadia Urbinati y Bernard Manin sobre la democracia representativa y su crisis   

          Madison’s Mayor Prepares For Both Mayoral, Governor Bids   
(Madison, WI)  —  Paul Soglin says he’s preparing campaigns for both his reelection as Madison’s mayor, and a Democratic bid for Wisconsin governor. The 72-year-old Soglin tells the State Journal’s editorial board he’ll decide around Labor Day which office to run for. He says that if runs for governor, he expects to win and he’s More >
          Sen. Cory Booker On Health Care And The Democrats' Future   
Rachel Martin talks to Democratic Sen. Cory Booker about the progressive strategy to stop the GOP health care bill — and what Democrats need to do to get back on top.
          WHY ARE DEMOCRAT-MONOPOLY CITIES SUCH CESSPITS OF VIOLENCE? How Liberal Portland Became America’s …   
WHY ARE DEMOCRAT-MONOPOLY CITIES SUCH CESSPITS OF VIOLENCE? How Liberal Portland Became America’s Most Politically Violent City. Portland’s last Republican mayor left office in 1980.
          SURROUNDED: Syrian US-backed forces seize last route into Raqqa. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coa…   
SURROUNDED: Syrian US-backed forces seize last route into Raqqa. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition told The Associated Press that the Syrian Democratic Forces are now in control of all high-speed routes into Raqqa from the south. The Kurdish-led fighters had been advancing from the city’s east after they seized a major stronghold in May, […]
          'A waste of taxpayer money': Trump's voter fraud commission is facing pushback from a dozen states   
  • TrumpAt least a dozen states pushed back against a broad request from the White House commission on voter fraud.
  • The states included Indiana, whose secretary of state sits on the commission.
  • The requested information has raised questions about the ways it can be used.

At least a dozen states are already pushing back against a request by President Donald Trump's voter-fraud commission to hand over registered voters' personal information to make public. 

The bipartisan Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent a letter to all 50 states on Wednesday seeking registered voters' names, addresses, dates of birth, partial Social Security numbers, and party registration.

It also asked for a decade's worth of voter history, information on felony convictions, and whether they have registered in more than one state. The commission said all voter data submitted by the states would be made public, and the Justice Department sent a separate letter asking states to reveal how they maintain their voter rolls.

At least 12 secretaries of state — from Indiana, California, Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Minnesota, Utah, Oklahoma, New York, Tennessee and New Mexico — have so far declined to hand over information that is not already publicly available. 

Indiana's secretary of state, Connie Lawson, sits on the commission. But she said in a statement that "Indiana law doesn’t permit the Secretary of State to provide the personal information requested by Secretary Kobach." Only certain voter information, she said, is available to the public under Indiana law: name, address, and congressional district assignment.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement that handing over the requested information would "legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach."

“I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally," Padilla said Thursday.

Kris Kobach

Trump vowed to investigate voter fraud just days after taking office, repeating false claims that millions of illegal ballots were cast in the presidential election. There is no evidence to support Trump's repeated assertion that he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton in November's election because people voted illegally, independent experts and analysts have said.

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said in a statement that "Kentucky will not aid a commission that is at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country."

"The president created his election commission based on the false notion that 'voter fraud' is a widespread issue — it is not," Grimes said. "Indeed, despite bipartisan objections and a lack of authority, the president has repeatedly spread the lie that 3-5 million illegal votes were cast in the last election."

States are already wary of accepting federal help when it comes to voting and election systems. States pushed back when the Department of Homeland Security wanted to designate their voter systems as "critical infrastructure" before the election last year, and are still reluctant to allow the government to conduct a complete digital forensics analysis of the voting machines to see if they were tampered with. 

'Serious privacy concerns' and 'laying the groundwork for voter suppression'

Election law and voter-fraud experts broadly agree that the commission's request is not only bas