Respected Progressive Organizer Makes Her Case for Tim Kaine

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 4:39pm
Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine to help win this election and have someone she can work with.

Some of my progressive friends were surprised by Hillary Clinton’s decision to select Tim Kaine as her running mate. Here’s my take on him.

Tim Kaine grew up in a working-class family, earned a B.A. in economics from the University of Missouri and then went to Harvard Law School. He took a break from law school to work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Honduras. He speaks fluent Spanish.

As a lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, he focused on civil rights issues, specializing in fair housing law and representing clients discriminated against on the basis of race or disability. As a young lawyer, he won a $100 million jury verdict against Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company for its discrimination against African-American neighborhoods—a practice known as redlining. He was also a founding member of the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness.

He was elected to the Richmond City Council in 1994, then elected the city’s mayor. He served as governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012.

He took on the gun lobby in Virginia: a courageous thing to do in that state.

As governor, he issued an executive order to restore voting rights of formerly incarcerated citizens. Throughout his career, he’s been a supporter of the right to vote.  

He also took on Big Tobacco, signing a bill to ban smoking in Virginia’s bars and restaurants  

He is a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, favoring a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. This impacts the lives of millions of people now living in the shadows.

He opposed the Keystone XL pipeline as early as 2013. When he was governor, he protected 400,000 acres of land from being developed. He has a lifetime score 91% rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

Conservative groups like the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and the American Conservative Union have given him a 0% rating.

He is an advocate for a strong working families economic agenda.

Both the NAACP and the AFL-CIO give him a 96% rating.

He was a strong supporter of the Iran agreement and was one of the first in the Senate to refuse to attend the Benjamin Netanyahu speech organized to block the nuclear deal.

He argued that the president needs authorization from Congress to carry out air strikes.

He opposes the death penalty (although as governor, he oversaw executions).

He backed marriage rights for same-sex couples and opposed the effort to prohibit this in the Virginia Constituiton.

He was a supporter of TPP. We are told he is going to come out against TPP—what an additional way to show and build progressive strength!

He was anti-choice in his actions until he entered the Senate in 2013. He is supported by Planned Parenthood and Emily's List, which gave him 100% ratings as a senator. He has the confidence of Hillary Clinton, who would be the strongest pro-choice president we will ever have.

He supports strong enforcement of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine to help win this election and have someone she can work with. They are trying to build an electoral majority in a country that is still divided and in which our progressive movement is not as strong as we would like it to be. But it has been strong enough to help win this progressive platform, drive so many of the areas of our concern to the front of the nation's agenda and to nominate these leaders who are committed to that platform and so many progressive issues.

We need to keep organizing and fighting for the full progressive vision. We spend our lives doing that.

Winning Virginia for Democrats is also a way to make progressive victories more possible in the future, around the country and at all levels. We need to be progressive and to win to actually improve lives and give people confidence that this struggle is worth the effort.

We are all in a fight for our lives and for the future. We are all part of the forces for progressive change.

We are all doing everything we can think of to advance that change. We have somewhat different strategies for getting there.

We have somewhat different priorities—all of which are important.

We need to promote our positive vision as well as expose the terrifying prospect of a Trump presidency. And this is not just about the presidency, but about creating a wave to bring in a more progressive Senate, into the House and state and local races, and to build a progressive movement that can advance a progressive vision and a country and world where all are treated with dignity and respect.

To advance this vision, to build the movement and to win in November, I am not only anti-Trump, I am for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

I will do everything I can to advance their election. I hope we can join together to make this a reality.

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Chaotic Start to DNC, As Wasserman-Shultz Resigns in Disgrace, Only to be Elevated by Clinton to Key Campaign Role

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 4:38pm
At first Sanders is vindicated by e-mail hack, and DNC apology; but Hillary turns the tables.

Bernie Sanders supporters rode a roller coaster Sunday, first feeling exuberant that their longtime nemesis, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was forced to resign after Wikileak unloaded thousands of e-mails including some that proved top DNC staff plotted to sabotage Sanders’ presidential hopes.

But then Hillary Clinton issued a statement extolling Wasserman Schultz’s tenure and announcing thst she would become honorary campaign chair of her presidential campaign.  

“There’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie—which is why I am glad that she has agreed to serve as honorary chair of my campaign’s 50-state program to gain ground and elect Democrats in every part of the country, and will continue to serve as a surrogate for my campaign nationally, in Florida, and in other key states,” Clinton said.

President Obama also issued a statement saying, “For the last eight years, Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has had my back… she will always be our dear friend.”

The rapid turnaround, first a humiliating resignation and then a lightning rehabilitation, speaks volumes about rewarding loyalty at the top of Democratic Party circles, where, Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, was exposed by WikiLeak’s document dump for doing exactly what the Sanders campaign alleged for months—deploying the party as a de facto arm of the Clinton campaign when it publicly said it was neutral.

But there are even more intriguing, though distracting, developments in the stunning spectacle of the chair of a national political party resigning on the eve of its biggest quadrennial event. As the New York Times and others reported Sunday, the Clinton campaign was saying that it may not have been Wikileaks that hacked the DNC’s e-mail but instead were Russian agents motivated by helping Donald Trump’s campaign—especially after Trump has praised Vladimir Putin’s autocratic leadership style.

The Times reported, “Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, argued on ABC’s ‘This Week’ that the emails were leaked ‘by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump citing ‘experts’ but offering no other evidence. Mr. Mook also suggested that the Russians might have good reason to support Mr. Trump: The Republican nominee indicated in an interview with The New York Times last week that he might not back NATO nations if they came under attack from Russia — unless he was first convinced that the counties had made sufficient contributions to the Atlantic alliance.”

Stepping back, the notion put forth by the Clinton campaign that Russia somehow had a role in Friday’s release of 20,000 e-mails where top DNC officials were caught plotting against Sanders—such as the party spokesman suggesting it might hurt him in southern states if his religious beliefs were questioned—strains the imagination, even as computer experts say it is possible. But is a gigantic bait and switch, nonetheless, diverting scrutiny away from the DNC’s biased behavior and her resurrection as Clinton’s chair.

How this story continues to unfold in coming days is anybody’s guess. When it initially broke on Sunday afternoon, Wasserman Schultz said she would step down after the 2016 Democratic Convention ends on Thursday. Donna Brazile was appointed interim chair.

The resignation broke as thousands of delegates, including 1,900 who backed Sanders, are converging on Philadelphia and on Saturday won concessions to change the way delegates are awarded in future presidential campaigns. The delegates were joined by large crowds of Sanders supporters that flocked to the city Saturday for several protests, rallies and marches throughout the city.

Sanders supporters seemed to be on a roll. While not pushing Clinton to choose a kindred spirit as her vice presidential candidate and running mate, they still seemed to be shaking up a party status quo. Wasserman Schultz’s resignation, the convention rules committee’s pledge to substantially cut back the number of super delegates—party leaders who can back any candidate, and the same panel’s commitment to revise the way state caucuses award presidential delegates, were not insignificant.  

Sanders had called on Wasserman Schultz to resign following the latest disclosures and praised her resignation on Sunday. But his complaints about DNC go back to 2015 when the DNC shut down the campaign’s access to the party’s voter file database, which it was using to raise millions of small donations and contact supporters in 2016 primary and caucus states.

When campaign manager Jeff Weaver protested that Wasserman Schultz and other DNC officials were “throwing shade” on their campaign, many in official Washington accused the Sanders team of overreacting. However, Wikileaks showed that the anti-Sanders bias was real and that Wasserman Schultz did not intervene to correct her subordinates.

As a result, Wasserman Schultz had become a poster child for Democratic Party insider bias. Progressives across the country were coalescing behind her 2016 primary opponent, Tom Canova, who raised more than $1 million for an upcoming August primary. In her announcement making Wasserman Schultz, Clinton said that she’d campaign for her re-election in coming weeks.

“I look forward to campaigning with Debbie in Florida and helping her in her re-election bid—because as President, I will need fighters like Debbie in Congress,” Clinton said.

As part of her resignation, Wasserman Schultz will also not be speaking from the main podium in Philadelphia. However, her resignation and rapid rehabilitation is likely to provoke Sanders delegates and supporters. When Sanders takes the main stage on Monday night, he will make the case to elect Clinton and defeat Trump.

One wonders how much the Wasserman Schultz eruption will dilute that message.

 

 

 

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The labour movement and the housing crisis: long-separated struggles

Canadian Dimension - July 24, 2016 - 4:08pm

Photo by Guilhem Vellut

“I am working class person, not making millions,” said Martin Fernandez, a former resident of a Burnaby apartment building set for demoviction, talking about his new apartment. “Paying that much there is not much left in my bank account or my pockets, so I have to restrain my kids from buying things that they like.”

He pays $400 more a month but he really had no other choice. His previous home, the low-rise apartment building at at 5025 Imperial Avenue, was occupied by a dozen of his former neighbours since July 9, barricading themselves on the top floor, protesting the housing crisis in general and the demoviction of this building in particular. On July 20, the RCMP smashed windows to gain entry and arrested seven, ending the occupation.

They were resisting efforts to demolish the building to make way for a condo development unaffordable to the working poor. The property is owned by Amacon Developments, which is also preparing to demolish three other buildings.

Residents and supporters promised to remain until they’re forced out, with Stop Demovictions Burnaby providing outreach volunteers to talk with neighbours about the issue, while calling for a halt to the disappearance of affordable rental units.

Their concerns echo those of many others in the Metro Vancouver area.

In the Downtown Eastside, a tent city has emerged on land owned by the city at 58 West Hastings St. The empty lot, the residents of the tent city say, should be turned into social housing at welfare and pension rates. And on July 19, members of the Grandview-Woodland Area Council (GWAC) of Vancouver spoke at City Hall to oppose the city’s Grandview-Woodland Neighbourhood Plan, a document that details a long-term development project for the area. “At the meeting, renters were particularly fearful of losing both their homes and their communities as a result of demolitions leading to new buildings that will rent at 50 per cent to 100 per cent higher rates than current neighbourhood averages,” says a GWAC press release.

The housing crisis is confronting the working class head on in Vancouver and the research is revealing just how extensive it is.

On June 29, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a report called Working Poverty in Metro Vancouver by Iglika Ivanova. The study is a co-publication of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – BC Office, the United Way of the Lower Mainland, and the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.

The report noted that the working poverty rate in Metro Vancouver (which includes Burnaby and other suburbs) is the second highest in Canada, and has grown steadily since 2006.

British Columbia has the lowest minimum wage in Canada, with workers securing booming profits for an economy that relies on “low-paid workers to provide security, catering, cleaning, administration and other services.”

According to the report, a member of the working poor is of working age, earn below Statistic Canada’s Low Income Measure (LIM) but more than $3,000 a year, and isn’t a student.

8.7 per cent of the working-age population is being defined as working poor. “Another 167,500 people (13.8 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s working-age population) were poor but not working,” says the report. “This number includes people receiving welfare and disability assistance, as well as people who were unemployed or out of the labour force but did not receive social assistance.”

But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Working poverty is determined strictly against an individual’s or a family’s salary. It doesn’t consider their costs of living. That gives us a distorted picture since Vancouver is one of the most unaffordable cities in the world. “[T]he median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Metro Vancouver or Toronto,” says the report, “was almost double the median rent in Montreal ($1,150 and $1,111 per month, respectively, compared to $660 per month).”

The stats also don’t reflect the process of gentrification. The rate of working poverty actually fell in certain neighbourhoods, including in the City of Vancouver and Burnaby, but “the data do not tell us whether these trends represent improvements in the incomes of families that were working poor and living in those neighbourhoods in 2006 or whether they simply reflect an influx of higher-income residents (and the departure of lower-income residents) in those neighbourhoods.”

But since working poverty in Metro Vancouver overall didn’t fall, it looks like working poor people were just pushed farther away into the suburbs. For instance, the numbers show that the working poverty rate fell in the gentrifying region of Burnaby where the evicted residents occupy their building.

The report goes on to list a number of measures to reduce working poverty, like reforming Employment Standards and increasing the minimum wage. And it discusses the provincial government’s negligence regarding housing. There’s the province’s Rental Assistance Program which provides an inadequate monthly payment of $765 to working families with children earning less than $10,000. The Program also isn’t available to those who live alone or in families without children. Their alternative is subsidized social housing and the supply has, according to the report, increased by only 316 units between 2006 and 2012 while the increase in poor working-age adults in the province is 33,500.

This raises important questions for the labour movement. The traditional focus on the workplace clearly doesn’t help workers, and the working class in expensive cities like Metro Vancouver. A union can increase wages, ensure job security, and empower workers in their shops, but that won’t protect anybody from being the victim of gentrification and ballooning rents. Connecting these struggles will take a lot more effort. CUPE BC invited Gregor Robertson – mayor of Vancouver with the developer-friendly Vision Vancouver, a party which has accelerated the process of gentrification – to be their convention’s keynote speaker in the fall of 2015. That spoke to the deep divide.

But there is another way.

“[S]ocial movement unionism,” writes David Camfield in Canadian Labour in Crisis, “is about building a class-wide movement.”

It’s been done before. In 2001, with the election of a right-wing Liberal government in BC, members of the Victoria Labour Council, the Communities Solidarity Coalition, and HEU organized with other unions, students, and seniors’ groups to challenge austerity measures.

nions and such organizations really are all part of the same movement and should work together,” writes Camfield. “The aim is to work to overcome the separation of “labour” and “community” by promoting unity and solidarity among the various organizations of the working class.”

This article originally appeared on RankandFile.ca.

Categories: Netted News

Polarization and the Powder Keg

Canadian Dimension - July 24, 2016 - 4:02pm

Photo by Annette Bernhardt

The constitutional order of the US, such as it exists, faces a profound crisis of legitimacy, rooted in the multi polarity of US society. The US is divided among (1) a deeply entrenched police – judicial – presidential state against civil society organized in community based Afro-American, Hispanic and disinherited workers; (2) a corrupt Federal police, Justice, State Department and Presidential Office against a constitutional legal system upheld by the vast majority of citizens; and (3) a rigged Presidential electoral system against the consent and approval of the majority of the electorate.

The divisions in US society go far beyond the ‘opinions’ expressed in polls and surveys.

The polarization has found expression in mass street protests, ‘rejectionist’ votes and violent assaults. Are they heading toward a national uprising? Public officials describe the situation as ‘a powder keg on the verge of exploding’.

The Bazaar of Crooked Faces

The ruling elites feign control of the polarization. President Obama engages in impotent rhetorical appeals that impress nobody.

Corruption, deception and betrayal in high places are so rampant that mutual impunity has become the badge of collegiality. The most active citizens deny the legitimacy of all politicians, dismissing them as ‘all corrupt’.

The electoral system is a gigantic bazaar of crooked smiles, raucous inanities and vacuous promises … broken before they’re spoken.

If the courts, electoral process and police state act as a triumvirate beyond the reach of the vast majority of American citizens, then the people will turn to other methods and voices to challenge and change this tyranny of the elite.

The Power Keg is within the US

The US public has suffered two decades of declining living standard and instability, while the elite accumulated an immense concentration of wealth, privilege and power. The passive wait and patience are ending – promises of a better future fall on stone deaf ears and smiling inanities are met with grim faces.

The first sign of ‘the powder keg’ started with a loud fire-cracker. The young and hopeful had turned to support an in-house ‘democratic socialist’ and out-house ‘nationalist patriot’. The ‘crackers’ snapped, crackled and died! Promising to bring his supporters into the Democratic corral, Sanders melted in the carnal embrace of the ‘queen of chaos’, the candidate of decades of deceit and deception. Meanwhile, Trump’s working class patriots were turning into doormen for the bankers, Bible thumpers and Republican hucksters.

The electoral charade has failed to dampen the powder keg. There are too many fires burning across the land and too many resolute arsonists lighting the fuse.

The False Prophets of Justice: Unmasked

Unlike the electoral ‘explosion’ sputtering amid the voters’ rancor, black and brown communities do not take marching orders from the political con artists, judges and police chiefs. They do not follow the false prophets of electoral politics. Growing numbers are taking to the streets to fight back.

For the past eight years, President Obama has devastated black neighborhoods and schools, unleashing highly militarized police state forces while praising the black political officials (the ‘mis-leaders’) and black police who participate in terrorizing black communities. It is no surprise that the heightened social polarization has spread and deepened in the black neighborhoods. We are taken back to the 1960’s and 70’s when racial violence emanating down from the Office of the President to the courts to the police provoked reciprocal violence from the bottom upward to the elite.

The Lit Fuse

The revolt begins with the Afro-Americans and will spread to the Latino-Americans and beyond among the downwardly mobile white workers. The growing white working class revolt against the kleptocrat Clinton Dynasty has spread to encompass the popular rebellion against ‘the burn’ of renegade fake socialist ‘Bernie’ and the rest of the billionaire owned political system. The political rebellion is taking part throughout the American heartland.

A majority of Americans are polarized because they are denied basic stability in their everyday lives. They look back at their lost living standards and look forward to a grim and unacceptable future – especially for their youth and children.

America’s rebellion has diverse detonators: the plutocratic economy, the kleptocratic electoral system and the dehumanizing militarized police state.

The kleptocratic electoral system has brought together the greatest number of hostile voices reaching across racial lines and penetrating deeply within class divides.

The police-race polarization is most immediate and explosive. It is most likely to result in direct action.

The downwardly mobile white working class is the largest rebellious group, but has been the slowest to develop a class-consciousness and organize. Nevertheless, they have the greatest potential to overturn the system.

The disenchanted electoral rebels (the Bernie-supporters) are numerous and quick to act, but they are also the most easily deceived by political charlatans and con-artists.

Conclusion

The confluence of militant blacks, activist voters and downwardly mobile whites is only at the beginning of the great uprising. As yet, they do not ‘see each other’ in life, work, neighborhood or language, even as they share a profound common hostility to the police state tasked with protecting the political-economic elite.

Under what circumstances can they come together? At present there is no organization capable of unifying these dynamic and critical forces.

Spontaneous groups have emerged but they are transient and ‘single issue’.

Community-based organizations have their limited strategic vision and remain rooted in localities.

Alternative political parties and personalities have promise but are engage in electoral politics divorced from direct action, whether it involves the police, the courts or the economic system.

A ‘charismatic leader’ could emerge and bridge the different constituencies – downwardly mobile workers, militant blacks and politically disenfranchised activists may merge at some point around such a leader. But unless ‘the leader’ is harnessed to a powerful organized movement and directed by activist communities the threat of betrayal remains a real possibility.

We live in a time when the existing system is rotten and collapsing and when mass disaffection is growing. However, this is also a period when the ‘alternatives’ appear remote and intangible.

What is abundantly clear is that mere collapse and decay will not by itself bring about a mass popular rebellion to build a just society.

James Petras is author of The End of the Republic and the Delusion of Empire, Extractive Imperialism in the Americas: Capitalism’s New Frontier (with Henry Veltmeyer), and The Politics of Empire: The US, Israel and the Middle East.

This article originally appeared on DissidentVoice.org.

Categories: Netted News

Implementing Austerity By Downloading Responsibility

Canadian Dimension - July 24, 2016 - 3:58pm

Laura Bardeau had bedbugs and lost all of her furniture. A single mother with two children, trying to survive on social assistance, she applied for emergency housing support from the City of Toronto’s Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF). In doing so Laura was one of over 30,000 people annually who try to access this fund. As per her eligibility, Laura requested the maximum $1500 the City allots for replacing necessary furniture. That was in April. Much to her surprise, she was denied; not once, but twice. The City told her she made too much money and should have the resources to pay for furniture herself.

Laura’s sole source of income comes from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Child Tax Benefits. Since Laura and her kids have health conditions requiring a special diet, they are provided some additional money per month for food. Much like all households on social assistance, they are forced to live well below the poverty line.

After a two month-long fight with the City that included a public call/write campaign and a mass delegation to City Hall, we at the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) were able to win the Bardeau’s $1100 in June. However this was still $400 short of what Laura was eligible for. The fight continued and this past week we were successful in forcing the City to relent and grant Laura the full $1500. Additionally we forced the City to turn over its secret HSF adjudication policy. Up until now, people who apply for the HSF were given vague denials and because they didn’t know how the HSF was adjudicated, were unable to properly appeal the decisions.

Uncovering City Policy

When she was first denied, Laura, like all of us at OCAP who she turned to for help, couldn’t comprehend how someone in Laura’s position could be denied access to an emergency housing fund on the grounds that she had “income in excess.” Once we got a hold of the policy, however, it became clear how it was that so many people were being denied the HSF who clearly needed it and who qualified, according to the City’s website.

We found that Toronto’s social services bureaucracy has created a formula that ensures that almost all of the money that people get to raise their kids (which is separate from social assistance), for medically necessary special diets, and for service animals is counted as being “in excess.” Indeed, while it would stand to reason that the more kids you have means you have greater furniture needs, the policy ensures that the amount you are eligible for goes down with every child. The policy blatantly discriminates against disabled people and families.

Because the HSF is a finite fund, these discriminatory policies help the City solve its budgetary limitations. The Bardeau’s situation is a microscopic example of the real life consequences of austerity at both the municipal and provincial levels. Four years ago, the Ontario Liberal government delivered a critical blow by implementing the largest cuts to social assistance benefits since 1995. This included the elimination of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) which was used by close to 200,000 social assistance recipients a year to pay for emergency incidental housing needs. Other cuts included reductions in health-related benefits for things like dental emergencies, eye-glasses, funerals and burials. The cuts amounted to a total of $133-million withheld from Ontario’s poorest people. The move was widely criticized by anti-poverty groups, legal clinics, health providers and community agencies alike.

The CSUMB, which at $110-million formed the biggest chunk of the cut, was halved and downloaded onto municipalities to administer. The result is a patchwork of local municipal funds, each administered under different criteria, and with many local governments choosing to not provide any funds similar in function to the CSUMB. Also lost was the ability of applicants to appeal decisions made by workers to the Social Benefits Tribunal, thereby allowing the arbitrariness and discrimination in Toronto’s policy to go completely unchecked. The Liberals justified the cut by highlighting savings, while at the same time touting major corporate tax reductions.

Fighting Against ‘Invisible Austerity’

Today, Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne touts herself as the “social justice Premier” while intentionally letting social assistance rates be eroded by inflation. Additionally, her government has orchestrated processes to claw back money people receive to purchase incontinence-related supplies and is increasing attempts to kick disabled people off of disability assistance altogether. Taken together, these and other changes to social assistance amount to what anti-poverty activists call “invisible austerity.”

These creeping cutbacks insidiously attempt to get people acclimatized to growing indignities. Unlike the Conservative approach that is often blatantly antagonistic to the poor, the Liberals care about their image. They want to appear friendly while implementing policies that originate from the same neoliberal logic. The result in either case is the further erosion of people’s material living conditions, which are already dire in case of social assistance recipients. This is why the struggle around the HSF assumes such critical significance. It is not merely an attempt at registering dissent but a battle to win tangible victories that can build the capacity of our communities to resist. The success of anti-poverty struggles across Canada today depends on our ability to effectively expose and challenge Liberal double-speak.

The reality of austerity is often talked about in terms of the millions of dollars cut from social spending. Too infrequently do we actually talk about the impact on real people who bear the brunt of these cuts. Laura and her two kids are three of the thousands of people who daily face the consequences of the Liberal government’s decision to gut social assistance. Laura fought back and won, but as she said at the rally OCAP organized with her at Toronto City Hall on June 15, “We need to stand up for all people, not just for me and my boys but for all families who have been denied.”

AJ Withers and Yogi Acharya are both organizers with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), a poor people’s organization working in the downtown east end of Toronto for over 25 years.

This article originally appeared on SocialistProject.ca.

Categories: Netted News

Trump Stands by Roger Ailes: He 'Really Helped' Those 'Women Who Are Complaining'

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 1:23pm
"So I feel very badly. But a lot of people are thinking he’s going to run my campaign," said Trump.

In transcripts released ahead of his Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stood by former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who stepped down on Thursday amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Toronto Star correspondent Daniel Dale published the transcripts on his Twitter feed Saturday evening.

Meet the Press host Chuck Dodd asked Trump about the allegations against Ailes, and the candidate replied, “Well I don’t want to comment. But he’s been a friend of mine for a really long time. And I can tell you that some of the women who are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them. And even recently. And when they write books that are fairly recently released, and they say wonderful things about him.”

He went on, “And now all of a sudden they’re saying these horrible things about him. It’s very sad. Because he’s a very good person. I’ve always found him to be just a very, very good person. Any by the way a very, very talented person. Look what he’s done. So I feel very badly. But a lot of people are thinking he’s going to run my campaign.”

Since Gretchen Carlson announced two weeks ago that she was leaving the network and suing Ailes for sexual harassment, multiple women have approached her legal team saying that they experienced similar harassment from Ailes.

On Saturday, the New York Times published an article in which a dozen women from the network said that the sexual harassment there wasn’t confined to Ailes at all. The women painted a lurid picture of a work environment where they are constantly harassed, pressured to provide sexual favors and are continually subject to unwanted and inappropriate touching.

In another excerpt from the Meet the Press interview, Trump boasted that WWE boss Vince McMahon told him his dramatic entrance on to the convention floor was “a very, very good entrance.”

He doubled down on his remarks regarding NATO countries and got irritable when Todd asked him to rebuke the glowing nomination he received from Klansman David Duke.

“Rebuked,” he snapped. “Is that okay? Rebuked, done.”

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5 Appalling Right-Wing Moments This Week: The Crazy Bar Just Got Much Much Higher After the RNC

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 12:01pm
Ben Carson is really serious about this Lucifer thing.

Thursday was a night of troubled sleep throughout the land. In his long-awaited keynote speech, Republican nominee Donald Trump managed not just to confirm all of our worst fears about him, but to amplify them, make them 10 times darker and bigger, make them huuuuuuge! He got the fear job done. Better than anyone in the entire history of the country has gotten it done!

Let us just review what an amazing accomplishment this was. Rudy Giuliani kicked things off, commanding everyone to be much more terrified about crime, ISIS, immigration and Black Lives Matter. Chris Christie roused the crowds with chants of “lock her up,” and “guilty as charged!” Ted Cruz delivered his same lizard-like stump speech, the one everyone assumed they’d be spared after he dropped out of the race. The accumulating horror was enhanced by the realization that the slick-backed Trump sons have themselves acquired a taste for politics and now feel qualified to bash teachers and environmental regulations, celebrate gun culture and espouse other tired conservative talking points.

But Trump took the crown! He patted his Ivanka on the butt, and then surpassed them all in 75 minutes of continuous bellowing horribleness. The moon was nearly full. A smoldering heat dome would come to blanket much of the country. Darkness descended. And the next day, the mainstream media sunnily gave him credit for his shout-out to the LGBTQ community.

Fear works, and we are genuinely afraid.

1. Ben Carson’s star turn.

It was hard to stand out among all of the over-the-top Hillary bashing at the Republican National Convention, but somehow good ole Ben Carson—oh, how we have missed the antics of the good doctor—did everyone one better. While others merely called for a hanging at dawn, the former GOP frontrunner calmly drew the connection between Clinton and the devil. Yeah. That guy. Lucifer.

Carson began his speech by impersonating a sane person, talking seemingly rationally about the brain. It was lulling, soothing even. Then somehow, in the same semi-somnambulent cadence, he segued, and before you knew it, Lucifer was in the house, linked to that other antichrist, Hillary. A hanging would no longer suffice. We need an exorcism.

“So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer? Think about that.” Carson said. He was referring to Saul Alinsky, author of Rules For Radicals, who kiddingly mentioned Lucifer in his acknowledgements, and who Hillary Clinton studied in college, nearly half a century ago. But there’s no joking when it comes to the devil, and no connection too tenuous when it comes to taking down the devil who wears if not Prada, then Armani pantsuits.

Think about that, the brain surgeon said, after rambling on about the connection he alone has ferreted out. He then speculated that electing Clinton might really cause God to forsake America. The crowd cheered.

Anyone else relieved that at least he no longer practices medicine?

2. Rep. Steve King doesn’t even bother to disguise his racism.

It’s very possible that Iowa rep Steve King has zero concept of white supremacy. It is simply the water in which this fish swims. So perhaps it should not have been too much of a surprise this week when the rabid anti-immigrationist, tea partying Iowa congressman just came out and said during a live appearance on MSNBC that white people have basically been superior to all others throughout history and invented everything worthwhile.

His comments came about after host Chris Hayes asked a question about the racial makeup of the GOP.

Charles Pierce of Esquire was there and he said: “If you’re really optimistic, you can say this was the last time that old white people would command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, its public face.”

That did not sit well with King. “This whole ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie,” he said, all buddy buddy. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

Co-panelists were stunned. Hayes asked for clarification. Did he mean what it sounded like he just said?

He did.

We know this because, one, he said it really clearly, and two, he doubled down on his assertion of the superiority of the white European “subgroup” the next day. The man who tried to block Harriet Tubman from being on the $20 bill recently was 100 percent on-message for his party, as you'll see if you read on.

3. Jeffrey Lord makes truly unhinged comment about Trump’s speech.

Of all the Trump sycophants CNN has given journalistic validation to, pseudo-historian Jeffrey Lord doesn’t just take the cake, he jumps out of the damn thing. In a field that includes Corey Lewandowski, who is still on the Republican candidate’s payroll, Lord still trumps all. This is a man who consistently espouses the view that the Democrats are more racist than the GOP today because just bringing up race is inherently racist, and the KKK was originally Democratic. (Funny, neither he nor any other right-winger points out that the KKK was also Christian, therefore Christian terrorists.)

Leaving that aside, Lord was asked on CNN for his comments on Trump’s RNC speech Thursday night. There had been talk of Trump being Reaganesque, but somehow “Morning in America” metastisized into “Armageddon in America.” The comparisons to Nixon’s “law and order” theme among the protests and social movements of the '60s seemed a bit more apt, but Lord is his own man—and a Trump-owned man—and he went for another dead president.

“To be honest, this reminds me of Franklin Roosevelt,” Lord said. “In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech called the 'Forgotten Man Speech.' Which he, he went through a list of people in America that had been left out, that no one paid attention to. (sic) He even cited the banks and the sort of things Trump cited here too. It sounded to me much like that, FDR said that we need to get back to common sense and business sense.”

Say what?

Since no one on CNN reads history, no one questioned this absurd comparison to a Democratic president’s speech in which he talked about his own military service and laid out specific economic proposals to help ordinary Americans, subsequently greatly expanding the role of government and social programs.

A tiny morsel of information in the hands of a Trumpian is both a dangerous and sometimes hilarious thing.

4. David Duke, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Alex Jones—all weighed in.

In the new Trumpian era, every right-wing crackpot has a voice and none gets denounced (as long as they pass the loyalty test). And so right-wing conspiracy theorist extraordinaire Alex Jones went to Cleveland, waylaid Karl Rove at the airport, crashed a Young Turks set, and denounced the officials who would not allow him to fly a “Hillary for Prison” banner over the entire city. (Compared to what was being said in the Quicken Loans Arena, that message now seems quaint.)

In the most Jonesian endorsement possible, Jones told the New Republic that Trump has long “been what you call a ‘closet conspiracy theorist’ for 50 years. I think he’s been a chameleon in the system, and now he sees the time to strike.”

And he's right, Trump is no longer in the closet with his conspiracy theories. His pivot to the general election included implicating Ted Cruz's father in Kennedy's assassination, because the National Enquirer said so.

David Duke and the rest of the white supremacist set kvelled over Trump’s “America First” harangue. The RNC even displayed a White Nationalist tweet as Trump accepted the nomination. The next day David Duke felt so good about the general Trumpian political climate that he announced his intention to run for Senate.

Trump gal pals Coulter and Palin, while not on the all-star roster of speakers with Scott Baio, performed attack-dog duty on Ted Cruz for his refusal to endorse Trump.

So you see, Trump’s GOP really is pitching a big tent—albeit a circus tent—inclusive enough for some of the most heinously batsh*t performers on the planet.   

5. General Michael Flynn patiently explains to an actual Muslim that he is wrong about Islam.

On the short-list for vice president, Trump endorser General Michael Flynn was seemingly everywhere this week. The former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and harsh Obama critic was there at the RNC droning on disturbingly and tediously about how political correctness has impaired our country’s ability to fight and properly label terrorism. Delivery-wise, Flynn is similar to Trump. He simply stands there and yells at people for as long as he's at the podium.

The speech got almost no attention. As much as Flynn and Trump are a uni-mind when it comes to Muslim-bashing, political correctness and Putin admiration, the general’s slot was not in primetime.

Later in the week, in the interest of balance, Brian Lehrer opened his NPR coverage of the RNC with some commentary and a call-in segment with the tightly wound General Flynn. Part of the discussion centered on the label General Flynn and other Republicans insist on, "Islamic terrorism," which moderate Muslims, President Obama and Hillary Clinton have all said needlessly offends an entire religious group. But Flynn knows better than Muslims do. “Islamic terrorism,” he insists, is a cancer within the religion. He knows, because he just knows, and that’s what he told a Muslim caller who tried to explain the damaged feelings the label causes among moderate Muslims.

It was jarring on public radio where people at least attempt to listen to and learn from one another, and a reminder that the general, to whom Trump is likely to give a prominent role if he gets elected, is not really going to listen to anyone he disagrees with, least of all Muslims.

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12 Miraculous Beauty Treatments That Are Complete Bunk

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 12:00pm
You might want to read this before signing up for your sheep placenta facial.

The beauty industry is huge; huge enough to merit the tag Big Beauty. Thanks to advertising fueled by celebrity endorsements promising all the glamor of Hollywood and using science-y sounding terms like “clinically proven” and “detoxification,” the skin care industry alone is estimated to be worth $80 billion worldwide. Add in all the other anti-aging products, and you are looking at a $300 billion industry.

The perfect storm of aging Baby Boomers desperate to reclaim their youth, Gen-Xers anxious to retain it, a well-funded industry happy to sell them products, and a celebrity-obsessed media allowing claims of efficacy with little or no scrutiny, has resulted in a glut of beauty products whose legitimacy is questionable at best. We hear that Kate Middleton uses a bee venom facial to keep her face young and wrinkle-free, with no evidence as to how that might be so. Ditto when we read about Demi Moore using leeches, or Katie Holmes using snails. And there is the poster child of celebrity beauty tips, Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of alt-beauty and health website Goop.com and famous proponent of master cleanses, detoxs and vaginal steams. Paltrow reportedly spends $21,000 a month to keep up her beauty regimen.

Big Beauty is a master of using pseudoscientific terms and clinical “studies” to validate its products. The truth is, there is next to no meaningful research out there on beauty products. The studies that are cited are usually from researchers funded by the industry itself. In place of real science we get testimonies and assurances from celebrities and paid spokesmodels, often reported by magazines that have a vested interest in distributing “tips” to their readers. Meanwhile, a recent study found that only 18% of all the claims made in commercials by cosmetic companies were accurate, and that fully half of the brands the researchers looked at made claims that were either false or entirely subjective.

But the weird thing about beauty is that most people know this and still buy the products. The University of Guelph in Canada did a study in 2010 in which women were asked about anti-aging products. The majority of the participants were skeptical of the effectiveness of the products, yet it made no difference. “So many of the women we spoke with were aware of the gimmicks and doubted the level of effectiveness of the products, but they still used them,” said Amy Muise, the study’s co-author.

The breadth and variety of bogus beauty treatments is impressive. Here are 12 of the most dubious.

1. Dry shampoo

Touted as a way to save time in the morning by skipping washing and drying your hair, while at the same time preventing overwashing, dry shampoos have been gaining in popularity. Just spray it on (most dry shampoos are rice or oat starch) and it soaks up the excess oil in your hair, leaves a pleasant just-washed smell, and out the door you go. One tiny problem: dry shampoo can cause your hair to fall out.

Sonia Batra, a Los Angeles dermatologist, told the Atlantic that dry shampoo, “deposits substances to coat the follicle that can build up. The resulting inflammation can weaken the follicles and increase shedding. These products can also cause hair follicles to stick together, so that a hair that would normally shed during brushing may take two or three strands along with it.” Then again, having no hair rids you of the problem of needing to wash it.

2. Semen facial aka the man moisturizer.

OK, so even Big Beauty isn’t touching this one, but actress Heather Locklear apparently swears by spreading a little man-juice on the face to rejuvenate the skin and eliminate wrinkles. Maybe this is how porn stars retain their youthful looks, either that or just being young. Popular beauty blogger Tracy Kiss concurs, and her YouTube video on the topic of semen facials has been viewed over a million times, veering into online porn viewership numbers. There is, you should know, no basis for this treatment.

“There is no evidence-based medicine behind it. No science at all,” Lisa Kellett, a Toronto dermatologist told the Toronto Star. It turns out that the molecular structure of semen prevents it from actually being absorbed by the skin. Stick to regular moisturizers, which are molecularly formulated to be absorbed.

3. Vampire facial.

First pump up the face with a dermal filler called hyaluronic acid. Then take some of your own blood, usually from the arm, use a centrifuge to extract platelet rich plasma (PRP), and in a series of injections, return that PRP back into your face. The theory is that the blood platelets contain growth factors that will repair your skin and restore your youthful glow. The treatment has been used in the past to accelerate the healing of burns and wounds, and athletes like Kobe Bryant and Rafael Nadal have undergone it to help recover from injuries. However, there is zero science behind its efficacy as a facial. Still, Kim Kardashian swears by it, so it must be true.

4. Fire facial.

The fire facial is popular in spas all over China, but hasn’t yet caught on in the U.S. Not surprising since it involves setting fire to your face. Well, not exactly. A towel is soaked in alcohol and a special beauty elixir, wrapped on to the face, and then lit on fire. The towel is then quickly extinguished with another cloth (before your face melts, presumably). The treatment allegedly “stimulates the skin and addresses dullness, sagging and wrinkles.” Other than the fact that there is no science behind these claims, the fact that you would be lighting a fire on your face should give anyone pause.

5. Sheep placenta facial.

Victoria Beckham is reportedly a big fan of the sheep placenta facial. In this treatment, stem cells from the afterbirth of an ewe are extracted and applied to the skin. Supposedly the stem cells spur our own stem cells into action, repairing our damaged skin. Never mind that we have barely scratched the surface of what we know about stem cells for actual medical use, and there is no credible knowledge of what they can do as a skin facial.

6. Snail facial.

Ask Katie Holmes how she stays so youthful and she might tell you about her snail facials. Popular in Southeast Asia, the snail facial involves applying live snails to your face and allowing them to crawl over the skin, depositing their slime (scientifically, helix aspersa muller glycoconjugates). The snails disperse their mucus when under stress, and the substance supposedly contains healthy nutrients that will alleviate acne, stretch marks, scars, and wrinkles.

"This clearly is not very scientifically done," said Stephen Mandy, a Miami Beach dermatologist, who pointed out that there is no evidence snail slime does anything to combat aging skin. Moreover, snail mucus can possibly trigger allergic reactions.

7. Oil pulling.

The Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling has been popularized of late by young actress Shailene Woodley, as well as the ever-present Goop-er, Gwyneth Paltrow. The treatment consists of swishing a tablespoon of oil, usually coconut, sesame or sunflower, around in your mouth for 20 minutes. Woodley and other proponents claim this will whiten your teeth (also, some claim, dubiously, it will cure diabetes, acne, hangovers, and other illnesses). While a few studies have indicated the treatment might reduce bacteria in the mouth about the same as a regular mouth rinse, dentists warn it is no replacement for regular dental care.

The oil supposedly removes plaque from the teeth because it is a fat and dental plaque is fat-soluble. However, Robert Collins, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, has noted that there is no evidence that plaque is fat-soluble, and, “Even if it was, it doesn’t mean that it would disrupt the plaque.”

8. Leech facial.

Leeches have been used medicinally for as long as there has been human civilization. Originally thought to balance the body’s “humors,” modern medicine continues to use them to help heal skin grafts, among other things. The saliva from the leech contains an anticoagulant that stops the blood from clotting, useful in skin graft surgery and limb reattachment.

The beauty industry has other ideas, though. The leech facial involves allowing leeches to attach and suck blood from the face, and then smearing the leech-ed blood back onto the face. This allegedly will give you smoother, younger looking skin. Adherents like Demi Moore claim that the proteins and lipids in the leech saliva act to moisturize the skin. Needless to say, no science has shown this to be a fact. And anyway, do you really want leeches sucking blood from your face?

9. Kitty litter facial.

Take a little kitty litter, add a splash of water and rub it on your face and thighs as a mask and skin defoliator. Reportedly Christie Brinkley has endorsed the kitty litter facial. While cat litter may act as a clay mask, the granules are sharp and can cause small tears in the skin. Additionally, some brands contain aluminum silicate, a known neurotoxin for humans. When you are tempted to raid the litter box, resist and stick to regular mud masks.

10. Geisha facial aka bird poop facial.

Japanese geishas used the feces of the nightingale to remove the heavy makeup they wore, and today the geisha facial has gained adherents around the world. The dung of the Japanese nightingale supposedly has restorative properties, smoothing the skin and giving it that Tom Cruise glow. Cruise, in fact, uses the dung, according to Now Magazine. “Tom doesn’t go in for Botox or surgery, but he does pay close attention to all the new and popular natural treatments. He recently started experimenting with the nightingale poo facial.”

True or not, dermatologists are not wowed by the geisha facial. There is little scientific study of feces as a skin conditioner, despite anecdotal acclaim. And while the ingredient in bird feces, urea, can indeed moisturize the skin, it is readily available in many other less expensive moisturizers (the geisha facial can cost around $200).

11. Bee venom mask.

We’ve heard of the “bee-stung lips” look, but how about the bee-stung face? Believers in this facial procedure claim that applying bee venom to the face fools the skin into thinking it has been stung, causing the body to direct blood to the face and producing collagen and elastin to smooth and soften the skin, while restoring elasticity. Among the proponents are Victoria Beckham, Kate Middleton and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Because the venom is anaphylactic, it can relax the muscles in the face, which could theoretically contribute to a younger look. But, as dermatologist Jeannette Graf explained to Allure Magazine, “there haven’t been enough clinical trials to judge the effect of the venom.” Moreover, there is the possibility of an allergic reaction or damage to skin cell membranes.

12. Fish pedicure.

One of the latest spa crazes is removing dead skin cells from the feet by plunging them into fish tanks and letting the fish nibble away at the dead skin. The supposed benefits include improved circulation, reduced foot odor and softer and suppler feet. However, there is little real science behind these claims, and no guarantee that the fish won’t transmit disease, either from the nibbling, or from the dirty water in the tank. Moreover, there have been claims that the fish used in these treatments are kept hungry to assure they will go for their dead skin appetizer.

The takeaway from all of these examples is to approach claims of “clinically proven” and “dermatologist approved” with a jaundiced eye. The beauty industry is expert at making their treatments sound like science without actually employing science, or by employing very subjective science. Exotic-sounding and expensive procedures to make your skin soft and your face young are almost always no more effective than proven and more inexpensive products.

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Robert Reich: Does Hillary Get It?

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 10:56am
Tim Kaine is as vanilla middle as you can get.

Does Hillary Clinton understand that the biggest divide in American politics is no longer between the right and the left, but between the anti-establishment and the establishment?

I worry she doesn’t – at least not yet.  

A Democratic operative I’ve known since the Bill Clinton administration told me “now that she’s won the nomination, Hillary is moving to the middle. She’s going after moderate swing voters.”

Presumably that’s why she tapped Tim Kaine to be her vice president. Kaine is as vanilla middle as you can get.

In fairness, Hillary is only doing what she knows best. Moving to the putative center is what Bill Clinton did after the Democrats lost the House and Senate in 1994 – signing legislation on welfare reform, crime, trade, and financial deregulation that enabled him to win reelection in 1996 and declare “the era of big government” over.

In those days a general election was like a competition between two hot-dog vendors on a boardwalk extending from right to left. Each had to move to the middle to maximize sales. (If one strayed too far left or right, the other would move beside him and take all sales on rest of the boardwalk.)

But this view is outdated. Nowadays, it’s the boardwalk versus the private jets on their way to the Hamptons. 

The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a system rigged by big corporations, Wall Street, and the super-wealthy.

This is a big reason why Donald Trump won the Republican nomination. It’s also why Bernie Sanders took 22 states in the Democratic primaries, including a majority of Democratic primary voters under age 45.

There are no longer “moderates.”  There’s no longer a “center.” There’s authoritarian populism (Trump) or democratic populism (which had been Bernie’s “political revolution,” and is now up for grabs). 

And then there’s the Republican establishment (now scattered to the winds), and the Democratic establishment.

If Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party don’t recognize this realignment, they’re in for a rude shock – as, I’m afraid, is the nation. Because Donald Trump does recognize it. His authoritarian (“I’ am your voice”) populism is premised on it.

“In five, ten years from now,” Trump says, “you’re going to have a worker’s party. A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”

Speaking at a factory in Pennsylvania in June, he decriedpoliticians and financiers who had betrayed Americans by “taking away from the people their means of making a living and supporting their families.”

Worries about free trade used to be confined to the political left. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, people who say free-trade deals are bad for America are more likely to lean Republican.

The problem isn’t trade itself. It’s a political-economic system that won’t cushion working people against trade’s downsides or share trade’s upsides. In other words, a system that’s rigged.

Most basically, the anti-establishment wants big money out of politics. This was the premise of Bernie Sanders’s campaign. It’s also been central to Donald (“I’m so rich I can’t be bought off”) Trump’s appeal, although he’s now trolling for big money.

A recent YouGov/Economist poll found that 80 percent of GOP primary voters who preferred Donald Trump as the nominee listed money in politics as an important issue, and a Bloomberg Politics poll shows a similar percentage of Republicans opposed to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision.

Getting big money out of politics is of growing importance to voters in both major parties. A June New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 84 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of Republicans want to fundamentally change or completely rebuild our campaign finance system.

Last January, a DeMoines Register pollof likely Iowa caucus-goers found 91 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats unsatisfied or “mad as hell” about money in politics. 

Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to move toward the “middle.” In fact, such a move could hurt her if it’s perceived to be compromising the stances she took in the primaries in order to be more acceptable to Democratic movers and shakers.

She needs to move instead toward the anti-establishment – forcefully committing herself to getting big money out of politics, and making the system work for the many rather than a privileged few.

She must make clear Donald Trump’s authoritarian populism is a dangerous gambit, and the best way to end crony capitalism and make America work for the many is to strengthen American democracy.

 

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The General Election Opposition That Will Finally Stop Trump: Women Voters

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 10:33am
More than 70 percent of women voters view Donald Trump negatively — and for good reason.

It’s been a little over a year since Donald Trump came down a flight of escalators to greet a crowd of supporters. You probably weren’t watching that day. If you were, you probably laughed it off as a joke. I wouldn’t blame you, because back then we had “serious” candidates to focus on — like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. No one could have imagined then that Donald Trump would be the GOP nominee for president.

It just seemed so improbable. From his very first speech as a presidential candidate, where he called Mexicans “rapists,” to each and every degrading remark it was revealed he’d made about a woman’s physical appearance, Trump’s unstable rhetoric would have spelled catastrophe for any other candidate.

By conventional wisdom, the brutal natural selection process that is the Republican primary should have taken him down. When that didn’t happen, we thought his policies would end him. Surely Republican voters would abandon a candidate whose tax plan would double the national debt. Surely the “family values” crowd would take offense to his lewd, graphic comments about women and their physical appearances?

But nothing seemed to stop Trump. And now, joined by Gov. Mark Pence, the most extreme anti-woman vice presidential candidate in a generation, a man who spouts nothing but reckless, vicious and hateful rhetoric is just one step away from the nation’s highest office.

But there is one group that can and will stop him: women. Women, who have been so frequently criticized, derided, humiliated and underestimated by Trump, will be the ones to bring him down.

It’s a numbers game, plain and simple. Women, who make up a majority of the general population and 53 percent of voters, unsurprisingly have an overwhelmingly negative opinion of the man fond of calling them “bimbos,” “dogs” and “fat pigs.”

In fact, more than 70 percent of registered women voters view Donald Trump negatively. And it’s not just Democratic women who dislike him; polls show that nearly half of Republican women primary voters — 47 percent — said that they “could not imagine” themselves supporting Trump, despite the fact that he’s their party’s nominee.

From his crude remarks about Megyn Kelly to suggesting that women who have abortions should receive “some form of punishment,” Trump’s actions on the campaign trail have made it easy to see why women aren’t supporting him.

In 2016, you simply cannot win the election for President of the United States while alienating half of the voting population — to say nothing of the many other groups Trump regularly insults with his dangerously racist and xenophobic policies.

By standing together to make sure we come out to the polls in record numbers on November 8, women will send a powerful message not only to Donald Trump, but to the rest of the Republican Party: Misogyny isn’t just wrong, it’s a losing strategy.

I’m confident that come Election Day, we’ll see that standing up for women, not attacking them, is what wins their hearts, minds and votes. Unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has dedicated her entire life to fighting for women and hardworking families and breaking down barriers for us.

As a senator, she was an original cosponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and as secretary of state, she restored our standing in the world while insisting that women’s rights were a cornerstone of American foreign policy. Indeed, Hillary has always been and still is dedicated to ending gender discrimination in pay, implementing commonsense solutions for the middle class, like paid family and medical leave, making childcare affordable and raising the minimum wage. She’s a candidate women are proud to support.

The choice is obvious for us. But we can’t say it enough — with Donald Trump waiting in the wings, the stakes simply couldn’t be higher. Donald Trump is no joke, he is a real threat.

We have seen Republicans like Marco Rubio and Scott Walker try — and fail — to stop him.

Come November, we look forward to being the ones to finally take him down.

 

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Read This Extraordinary GOP Resignation Letter

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 10:00am
"Trump is not merely a poor candidate, but an indictment of our character."

According to his “About” page...

Chris Ladd is a Texan in exile. After growing up in Beaumont and working for more than a decade in Houston, he moved to suburban Chicago, where he is a Republican precinct committeeman.

He has a day job that he loves in the software industry. In his free time he has written for David Frum’s blog, the Washington Times Communities, the Houston Chronicle, and the Huffington Post.

Back in Texas he interned at the Legislature, worked on numerous state and local Republican campaigns, and volunteered for a statewide PAC. Chris graduated from Beaumont’s Central High, earned a degree from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas (the Harvard of Williamson County) and received his JD from the University of Houston.

He recently posted the following:

Chairman Cuzzone:

We come together in political parties to magnify our influence. An organized representative institution can give weight to our will in ways we could not accomplish on our own. Working with others gives us power, but at the cost of constant, calculated compromise. No two people will agree on everything. There is no moral purity in politics.

With three decades invested in the Republican Party, there is a powerful temptation to shrug and soldier on. Despite the bold rhetoric, we all know Trump will lose. Why throw away a great personal investment over one bad nominee? Trump is not merely a poor candidate, but an indictment of our character. Preserving a party is not a morally defensible goal if that party has lost its legitimacy.

...

I will not contribute my name, my work, or my character to an utterly indefensible cause. No sensible adult demands moral purity from a political party, but conscience is meaningless without constraints. A party willing to lend its collective capital to Donald Trump has entered a compromise beyond any credible threshold of legitimacy. There is no redemption in being one of the “good Nazis.”

I hereby resign my position as a York Township Republican committeeman. My thirty-year tenure as a Republican is over.

Sincerely,

Chris Ladd

Read the whole thing.

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The New Working Class: Trump Can Talk to Disaffected White Men, but They Don't Make up The 'Working Class' Anymore

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 9:52am
Democrats need to get comfortable with using the term "working class" or risk losing those voters to Trump.

Thursday night, Trump spent considerable air time speaking (more like yelling) about how America’s steel and coal workers have been ignored and sold-out for decades by both political parties. He promised to bring back those long-disappearing jobs and to put their needs front and center in his administration. As the daughter of a steel worker, I admit it was nice to finally hear someone talk about how the old industrial working class was robbed of their dignity and livelihood, with little regard for the devastation left behind.

But that working class — the blue-collar, hard-hat, mostly male archetype of the great post-war prosperity — is long gone. In its place is a new working class whose jobs are in the now massive sectors of our serving and caring economy. And so far, neither Trump nor Clinton have talked about this new working class, which is much more female and racially diverse than the one of my dad’s generation. With Trump’s racially charged and nativistic rhetoric, he’s offering red meat to a group of Americans who have every right to be angry — but not at the villains Trump has served up.

The decades-long destruction of American manufacturing profoundly changed the working class — neighborhoods, jobs and families. What had once been nearly universal, guaranteed well-paying jobs for young men fresh from high school graduation were yanked overseas with little regard for the devastation left behind.

To add insult to injury, the loss of manufacturing jobs was often heralded as a sign of progress. As the economic contribution of these former working-class heroes to our nation dwindled and the technology revolution sizzled, in many people’s minds, millions of men became zeroes. They seemed to be a dusty anachronism in a sparkling new economy.

Black men, who had fought for decades for their right to these well-paying jobs, watched them evaporate just as they were finally admitted to competitive apprenticeships and added to seniority lists. When capital fled for Mexico or China, the shuttered factories in America’s biggest cities left a giant vacuum in their wake, decimating a primary source of jobs for black men that would never be replaced.

The economic vacuum would be filled with a burgeoning underground economy in the drug trade, which was met with a militarized war on drugs rather than an economic development plan. That war continues today — the scaffolding upon which our prison industrial complex is built and the firmament upholding the police brutality and oppression in black communities that result in far too many unarmed black men being shot and killed by police.

As for the once privileged, white working-class man, the dignity and sense of self-worth that came with a union contract and the trappings of middle-class life are sorely missed and their absence bitterly resented. In the absence of real commitments from either political party to promote high-quality job creation for workers without college degrees, conservative talk-radio’s echo chamber and the rhetoric of far-right conservative politicians have concocted a story about who is winning (and taking from government) in this post-industrial economy: African-Americans and immigrants.

These are the contours shaping our nation’s political debate.

Trump has hitched his presidential wagon to the pain of the white working class, though far more rhetorically than substantively. With his anti-immigrant pledge to “build a wall” and his unicorn promises to rip up trade agreements and bring manufacturing jobs back to our shores, Trump promises to make the white working class “winners” again.

But the sad reality is that his campaign represents nothing more than yet another cynical political ploy to tap the racial anxiety and economic despair felt by white working-class men. It is a salve to soothe with no real medicine for healing the underlying wound.

Trump, and the Republican Party more broadly, offers no solutions or even promises to address the grave economic insecurity of the broader working class today, whose jobs are more likely to be in fast food, retail, home health care and janitorial services than on an assembly line. Unlike their predecessors, today’s working class toils in a labor market where disrespect — in the form of low wages, erratic schedules, zero or few sick days and arbitrary discipline — is ubiquitous. Gone are the unions and workplace protections that created a blue-collar middle class — the best descriptor for my own family background. Today’s working class punch the clock in a country with the largest percentage of low-paid workers among advanced nations, with the paychecks of African-Americans and immigrants plunging even further, particularly among women.

Thanks to the brave action and demands of movements like Fight for $15, United We Dream and Black Lives Matter, the Democratic Party is finally offering a robust official platform to improve the lives of today’s working class, not the one of my father’s generation. After decades in which working-class plight went largely overlooked by the Democrats in favor of a more centrist, pro-business stance, the party’s progressive economic shift should claim broad support among the new working class. As noted in my book, “Sleeping Giant,” unlike a generation ago, today’s working class is multiracial and much more female — more than one-third of today’s working class are people of color. Nearly half (47 percent) of today’s young working class, those aged 25-34, are not white people. And two-thirds of non-college educated women are in the paid labor force, up from about half in 1980.

The Democratic Party, both through its platform and its candidate, supports higher wages, paid sick days, affordable child care, college without debt and reifying the right to a union. With a platform more progressive than any in recent history, especially on economic and racial justice issues, there should be no doubt that the Democratic Party is the champion of the working class, at least on the merits. But most people don’t read party platforms or study policy positions. Instead, they listen and watch, waiting for cues that a candidate “gets” them and is actually talking to them.

For despite the platform language and Hillary Clinton’s stated positions, the Democratic Party hasn’t been talking to the working class. The words “working class” seem all but erased from the Democratic lexicon — in its speeches, ads and on its social media. The party’s language still clings to vague notions of “working people” or “hard-working Americans” or the false notion of a ubiquitous “middle class.” It may well be that the party has bought the political spin that “working class” is code for “white and male” — but actually, it’s people of color who are much more likely to consider themselves working class. And as the party of racial and social justice, Democrats are missing a big opportunity to sell its economic platform to this new working class.

The General Social Survey, a long-running public opinion survey, found in 2014 that 46 percent of respondents identified themselves as working class compared to 42 percent who identify as middle class. Black and Latino individuals were much more likely than whites to identify as working class. Six out of 10 Latinos and 56 percent of blacks consider themselves working class, compared to just 42 percent of whites. In fact, in every year since the early 1970s, the percentage of Americans who identify as working class has ranged between 44 and 50 percent. Interestingly, younger people are also more likely to consider themselves working class, with 55 percent of 18-29 year olds identifying as working class compared to 36 percent who identify as middle class.

Yet Trump has won the rhetorical war for the working class — despite his pitch being narrowly tailored to disaffected white men. There is no doubt in my mind that the Democratic Party is the party of the working class — white, black and brown — at least substantively. But by failing to explicitly use the term “working class,” the party risks not being heard by the very voters who have the most at stake in this election.

 

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Looking Back on My Life, and a World That is A Disheartening Mess

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 9:43am
Looking at my mortality, in a world of constant American war.

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

I recently dug my mother’s childhood photo album out of the depths of my bedroom closet. When I opened it, I found that the glue she had used as a girl to paste her life in place had given way, and on many pages the photos were now in a jumble.

My mother was born early in the last century. Today, for most of that ancient collection of photos and memorabilia -- drawings (undoubtedly hers), a Caruthers School of Piano program, a Camp Weewan-Eeta brochure, a Hyde Park High School junior prom “senior ticket,” and photos of unknown boys, girls, and adults -- there’s no one left to tell me who was who or what was what.

In some of them, I can still recognize my mother’s youthful face, and that of her brother who died so long ago but remains quite recognizable (even so many decades before I knew him). As for the rest -- the girl in what looks like a gym outfit doing a headstand, all those young women lined up on a beach in what must then have been risqué bathing suits, the boy kneeling with his arms outstretched toward my perhaps nine-year-old mother -- they’ve all been swept away by the tides of time.

And so it goes, of course. For all of us, sooner or later.

My mother was never much for talking about the past. Intent on becoming a professional caricaturist, she lit out from her hometown, Chicago, for the city of her dreams, New York, and essentially never looked back. For whatever reason, looking back frightened her.

And in all those years when I might have pressed her for so much more about herself, her family, her youthful years, I was too young to give a damn. Now, I can’t tell you what I’d give to ask those questions and find out what I can never know. Her mother and father, my grandparents who died before I was born, her sister whom I met once at perhaps age six, her friends and neighbors, swains and sidekicks, they’re all now the dust of history in an album that is disintegrating into a pile of black flakes at the slightest touch. Even for me, most of the photos in it are as meaningless (if strangely moving) as ones you’d pick up in an antique store or at a garage sale.

Lost Children on a Destabilizing Planet

I just had -- I won’t say celebrated -- my 72nd birthday. It was a natural moment to think about both the past that stretches behind me and the truncated future ahead. Recently, in fact, I’ve had the dead on my mind. I’m about to recopy my ancient address book for what undoubtedly will be the last time. (Yes, I’m old enough to prefer all that information on paper, not in the ether.) And of course when I flip through those fading pages, I see, as befits my age, something like a book of the dead and realize that the next iteration will be so much shorter.

It’s sometimes said of the dead that they’ve “crossed over.” In the context of our present world, I’ve started thinking of them as refugees of a sort -- every one of them uprooted from their lives (as we all will be one day) and sent across some unknown frontier into a truly foreign land. But if our fate is, in the end, to be the ultimate refugees, heading into a place where there will be no resettlement camps, assumedly nothing at all, I wonder, too, about the world after me, the one I’ll leave behind when I finally cross that border.

I wonder, too -- how could I not with my future life as a “refugee” in mind? -- about the 65 million human beings uprooted from their homes in 2015 alone, largely in places where we Americans have been fighting our wars for this last decade and a half. And it’s hard not to notice how many more have followed in their path this year, including at least 80,000 of the Sunni inhabitants of Iraq’s recently “liberated” and partially destroyed city of Fallujah. In the process, tens of millions of them have remained internal exiles in their own country (or what is left of it), while tens of millions have officially become refugees by crossing borders into Turkey, Lebanon, or Jordan, by taking to the seas in flimsy, overcrowded craft heading for Greece (from Turkey) or Italy (from Libya) moving onward in waves of desperation, hope, and despair, and drowning in alarming numbers. At the end of their journeys, they have sometimes found help and succor, but often enough only hostility and loathing, as if they were the ones who had committed a crime, done something wrong.

I think as well about the nearly 10% of Iraqi children, 1.5 million of them in a country gripped by chaos, war, ethnic conflict, insurgency, and terror who, according to a recent UNICEF report, have had to flee their homes since 2014, or the 20% of Iraqi kids (kids!) who are “at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, and recruitment into armed groups.” I think about the 51% of all those refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere who were children, many separated from their parents and alone on Planet Earth.

No child deserves such a fate. Ever. Each uprooted child who has lost his or her parents, and perhaps access to education or any childhood at all, represents a crime against the future.

And I think often enough about our response to all this, the one we’ve practiced for the last 15 years: more bombs, more missiles, more drone strikes, more advisers, more special ops raids, more weapons deals, and with it all not success or victory by any imaginable standard, but only the further destabilization of increasing regions of the planet, the further spread of terror movements, and the generation of yet more uprooted human beings, lost children, refugees -- ever more, that is, of the terrorized and the terrorists. If this represents the formula from hell, it’s also been a proven one over this last decade and a half. It works, as long as what you mean to do is bring chaos to significant swathes of the planet and force yet more children in ever more unimaginable situations.

If you live in the United States, it’s easy enough to be shocked (unless, of course, you’re a supporter) when Donald Trump calls for the banning of Muslims from this country, or Newt Gingrich advocates the testing of “every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported,” or various Republican governors fight to keep a pitiful few Syrian refugees out of their states. It’s easy enough to tsk-tsk over such sentiments, cite a long tradition of American xenophobia and racism, and so on. In truth, however, most of this (however hair-raising) remains bluster at this point. The real “xenophobic” action has taken place in distant lands where the U.S. Air Force reigns supreme, where a country that once created the Marshall Plan to raise a continent leveled by war can no longer imagine investing in or creating anything but further vistas of destruction and destabilization.

The Muslims that Donald Trump wants to ban are, after all, the very ones his country has played such a part in uprooting and setting in motion. And how can the few who might ever make it to this country compare to the millions who have flooded Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, among other places, further destabilizing the Middle East (which, in case you forgot, remains the oil heartland of the planet)? Where is the Marshall Plan for them or for the rest of a region that the U.S. and its allies are now in the process of dismantling (with the eager assistance of the Islamic State, various extremist outfits, Bashar al-Assad, and quite a crew of others)?

What Bombs Can’t Build

We Americans think well of ourselves. From our presidents on down, we seldom hesitate to imagine our country as a singularly “exceptional” nation -- and also as an exceptionally generous one. In recent years, however, that generosity has been little in evidence at home or abroad (except where the U.S. military is concerned). Domestically, the country has split between a rising 1% (and their handlers and enablers) and parts of the other 99% who feel themselves on the path to hell. Helped along by Donald Trump’s political circus, this has given the U.S. the look of a land spinning into something like Third World-ism, even though it remains the globe’s “sole superpower” and wealthiest country.

Meanwhile, our professed streak of generosity hasn’t extended to our own infrastructure, which -- speaking of worlds swept away by the tides of time -- would have boggled the minds of my parents and other Americans of their era. The idea that the country’s highways, byways, bridges, levees, pipelines, and so on could be decaying in significant ways and starved for dollars without a response from the political class would have been inconceivable to them. And it does represent a strikingly ungenerous message sent from that class to the children of some future America: you and the world you’ll inhabit aren’t worth our investment.

In these years -- thank you, Osama bin Laden, ISIS, and endless American politicians, officials, military figures, and terror “experts” -- fear has gripped the body politic over a phenomenon, terrorism, that, while dangerous, represents one of the lesser perils of American life. No matter. There’s a constant drumbeat of discussion about how to keep ourselves “safe” from terrorism in a world in which freelance lunatics with an assault rifle or a truck can indeed kill startling numbers of people in suicidal acts. The problem is that, in this era, preserving our “safety” always turns out to involve yet more bombs and missiles dropped in distant lands, more troops and special operators sent into action, greater surveillance of ourselves and everyone else. In other words, we’re talking about everything that further militarizes American foreign policy, puts the national security state in command, and assures the continued demobilization of a scared and rattled citizenry, even as, elsewhere, it creates yet more uprooted souls, more children without childhoods, more refugees.

Our leaders -- and we, too -- have grown accustomed to our particular version of eternal “wartime,” and to wars without end, wars guaranteed to go on and on as more parts of the planet plunge into hell. In all of this, any sense of American generosity, either of the spirit or of funds, seems to be missing in action. There isn’t the faintest understanding here that if you really don’t want to create generations of terrorists amid a growing population loosed from all the boundaries of normal life, you’d better have a Marshall Plan for the Greater Middle East.

It should be obvious (but isn’t in our American world) that bombs, whatever they may do, can never build anything. You’d better be ready instead to lend a genuine hand, a major one, in making half-decent lives possible for millions and millions of people now in turmoil. You’d better know that war isn’t actually the answer to any of this, that if ISIS is destroyed in a region reduced to rubble and without hope of better, a few years from now that brutal organization could look good in comparison to whatever comes down the pike. You'd better know that peaceful acts -- peace being a word that, even rhetorically, has gone out of style in “wartime” Washington -- are still possible in this world.

Lost to the Future

Before those tides wash us away, there’s always the urge to ensure that you’ll leave something behind. I fear that I’m already catching glimpses of what that might be, of the world after me, an American world that I would never have wanted to turn over to my own children or grandchildren, or anyone else’s. My country, the United States, is hardly the only one involved in what looks like a growing global debacle of destabilization: a tip of the hat is necessary to the Pakistanis, the Saudis, our European allies, the Brexit British, the Russians, and so many others.

I have to admit, however, that my own focus -- my sense of duty, you might say -- is to this country. I’ve never liked the all-American words “patriot” and “super-patriot,” which we only apply to ourselves -- or those alternatives, “nationalist” and “ultranationalist,” which we reserve pejoratively for gung-ho foreigners. But if I can’t quite call myself either an American patriot or an American nationalist, I do care, above all, about what this country chooses to be, what it wants to become. I feel some responsibility for that and it pains me to see what’s happening to us, to the country and the people we seem to be preparing to be. We, too, are perhaps beginning to show the strains of the global destabilization now evidently underway and, unnerved, we are undoubtedly continuing to damage the future in ways still hard to assess.

Perhaps someday, someone will have one of my own childhood photo albums in their hands. The glue will have worn off, the photos will be heading toward the central crease, the pages will be flaking away, and the cast of characters, myself included, will be lost to the past, as so many of those children we had such a hand in uprooting and making into refugees will be lost to the future. At that moment, my fate will be the norm and there will be nothing to mourn about it. The fate of those lost children, if they become the norm, will however be the scandal of the century, and will represent genuine crimes against the future.

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Thousands Will March in Philly to Demand Fracking Ban on Eve of Democratic National Convention (VIDEO)

AlterNet.org - July 24, 2016 - 2:45am
The march comes on the heels of yet another study revealing the negative public health impacts of fracking.

On Sunday, one day before the Democratic National Convention commences its four-day event at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, thousands of activists will march across the city to demand a ban on fracking, an unconventional drilling method to access natural gas trapped in underground shale deposits. Fracking has been under fire by environmentalists and public health advocates for causing a host of serious problems, from increased infant mortality and low-birth-weight babies to the release of cancer-causing radioactive gas, contamination of drinking water and earthquakes.

Organized by the groups Americans Against Fracking and Pennsylvanians Against Fracking and backed by over 900 organizations across all 50 states, the March for a Clean Energy Revolution is set to start at 1pm on July 24 at Philadelphia's City Hall. The activists will carry hand-painted banners and march down Market Street and will end a mile away at Independence Hall, where large art installations meant to raise awareness about the dangers of fracking will be unveiled to the public. Before the march begins, local and national advocacy leaders will join people whose lives have been affected by fracking for a press conference at City Hall at 11:30am. 

According to their website, the activists are marching for “action to prevent climate catastrophe,” and will present five demands to current and future policy makers:

  • Ban fracking now
  • Keep fossil fuels in the ground
  • Stop dirty energy
  • Environmental justice for all
  • Quickly and justly transition to 100% renewable energy

The march organizers are also demanding immediate and significant investment in clean energy, as well as a just occupational transition for fossil fuel industry workers. In addition to dozens of environmental groups, the mobilization includes womens' health advocates, anti-war groups, faith groups, farmworkers' advocates and indigenous groups. The march marks the conclusion of the Protect Our Public Lands Tour, a cross-country caravan of indigenous elders and storytellers who have been educating the public about the dangers of fracking and fossil fuel extraction. 

The march comes on the heels of a new study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, which found that asthma patients who live closer to fracking operations are 1.5 to four times more likely to suffer asthma attacks than those who live farther away. “We are concerned with the growing number of studies that have observed health effects associated with this industry,” said Brian S. Schwartz, the study’s senior author and a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School. “We believe it is time to take a more cautious approach to well development with an eye on environmental and public health impacts.”

Schwartz and his colleagues analyzed electronic health records from more than 35,000 asthma patients in Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2012. The state, which sits atop the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale rock formation, has been a fracking hotspot.

“As the national spotlight shines in Pennsylvania, it's really important to recognize that this state is one of the most heavily fracked in the country and has experienced devastating health and environmental impacts,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, at a press call on Tuesday. Pennsylvania activists will be calling on Governor Tom Wolf, a DNC Host Committee Honorary Chair, to stop exposing the state's residents to health risks through fracking. Larysa Dyrszka, a medical doctor and co-founder of Concerned Health Professionals of New York, said during the call that Wolf "must take a hard look at the data, acknowledge the harm of drilling and fracking and stop it before even more people become ill."

According to the Fractracker Alliance, a nonprofit that studies the risks of oil and gas development, nearly 10,000 unconventional wells have already been drilled in the Keystone State, with almost 8,000 additional permits issued. Since January alone, 185 wells have been drilled in the state. The group says that there are at least 1.7 million fracked wells across the United States.

“We're facing a climate emergency of unprecedented scale and we must act now and swiftly if we're going to avoid a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe,” said Hauter. “Our elected leaders must ban fracking, keep fossil fuels in the ground, stop polluting and dirty energy projects, pursue environmental justice for all, and act swiftly and justly to transition to 100 percent renewable energy future.”

The activists have their work cut out for them. Hillary Clinton, who will be named the Democratic presidential nominee at the DNC, has been a longtime supporter of fracking, even trying to export American-style fracking to foreign countries during her tenure as Secretary of State. During the primary process, Clinton has distanced herself from the fossil fuel industry, fending off attacks from her erstwhile opponent Bernie Sanders, whose campaign argued that she "has relied heavily on funds from lobbyists working for the oil, gas and coal industry." If she wins the presidency, those lobbyists will in all likelihood be calling in their favors. For now, Clinton has given fracking her tentative support, as long as there are some added regulations on the industry.

During the March 6 Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, a college student asked Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton if they supported fracking. Sanders offered a simple answer: "No, I do not support fracking." Clinton had a more nuanced reply:

You know, I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it— number three—unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using. So by the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place. And I think that’s the best approach, because right now, there places where fracking is going on that are not sufficiently regulated. So first, we’ve got to regulate everything that is currently underway, and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking unless conditions like the ones that I just mentioned are met.

The activists also have to fight the economics of fracking, as proponents argue it has contributed to the nation's economic health. A 2015 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the drilling boom fueled by fracking technology added around 725,000 jobs between 2005 and 2012. Fracking has been credited with the huge boost in U.S. crude oil production, from a low output in 2008 of 5 million barrels per day output to 7 million bpd in 2013, noted Forbes contributor Christopher Helman, a staunch supporter of fracking. "Thanks to fracking, lower natural gas prices already save consumers $100 billion a year—far more than any crumbs the federal government might want to dole out," Helman argues. Plus, the demand for natural gas continues to rise: In June, natural gas prices rose to a new five-month high

But clearly the issue isn’t only about the economy. The recent Johns Hopkins Bloomberg study is just the latest addition to a growing body of scientific evidence that underscores fracking’s heavy toll on the environment and public health. "I've grown increasingly concerned about the health effects of drilling and fracking, as more and more residents report the same symptoms, which includes trouble breathing, headaches, rashes, nosebleeds, and more," said Dyrszka. "Since 2009 more than 680 peer-reviewed studies have been published, with the overwhelming majority of them demonstrating [fracking’s] risks and harm.”

Also on the call was Karuna Jaggar, the executive director of Breast Cancer Action, a San Francisco-based education and advocacy organization. Underscoring the fact that "dangerous drilling and fracking are urgent social justice and public health issues," she highlighted the impact of the many toxic chemicals used in the fracking process. "Unlimited and poorly regulated fracking will threaten the basic necessities of life: our food, our water, and our air," she said. "Twenty-five percent of chemicals used in fracking and other forms of dangerous drilling cause cancer. More than 30 percent affect the hormonal system, which could also increase risk of cancer as well as other diseases and disorders. Nearly half of these chemicals affect the immune system, nervous system, heart health, and 75 percent of these chemicals affect skin, eyes, lungs, and gastrointestinal systems." She also pointed out that, of the "millions of families that live in communities directly affected by fracking, the majority ... are people of color."

For its part, the Democratic Party has signaled its desire for environmental justice, noting that "low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately home to environmental justice 'hot spots,' as well as its intention to move the nation toward a low carbon economy. In the draft of the Democratic Party Platform, the section called "Clean Energy Economy" states: "We are committed to getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, with half a billion solar panels installed within four years and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country." Another section, “Environmental and Climate Justice,” notes that “Democrats believe clean air and clean water are basic rights of all Americans.”

However, the draft document makes no mention of fracking.

"The Democratic Party Platform Committee's failure to call for a ban on fracking has motivated many activists to put more pressure on party leadership," notes a recent Food & Water Watch press release. "To drive home that point, on July 12 Food & Water Watch activists placed fake feces under 19 donkey statues on display around Philadelphia to promote the convention, along with messages saying that the fracking ban failure was 'crap.'”

While fracking is happening all over the country, the activists are taking full advantage of the fact that the DNC is in Philadelphia, the largest city in one of the most fracked states in the nation. During the press call, Karen Feridun of Pennsylvanians Against Fracking stressed the importance of Pennsylvania to the anti-fracking movement:

We wanted to tell the story of Pennsylvania in our instance because the story as it stands right now in the minds of many is that Pennsylvania is the negative role model on fracking. We've had visitors from more than sixty countries, and many, many states come here. What they've seen firsthand has informed decisions to put in place bans and moratoriums. ... That's how we're being cast, and all too often we're being cast as just a place that has been impacted, but there's a lot more to our story than that. We need to acknowledge the important story of the impact and all that we have lost, and that's how we're opening our contingent. We have stories from people who have been impacted, who have lost their lives, who have lost their properties, who have lost their health. ... We've lost a lot of other things as well. We've lost our sense of safety, we've lost our sense of quality of life, and we've lost democracy. We want to take all those things back ... There are so many people in this state who never imagined that they would be activists, and they've become activists, they've taken on the industry, and they've won.

According to their platform draft, Democrats “believe that the federal government should lead by example, which is why we will take steps to power the government with 100 percent clean electricity” If Hillary Clinton and the rest of her party want to witness an example of clean energy leadership, they can look to the thousands of activists marching across the City of Brotherly Love on Sunday.

But will there ever be true climate leadership in Washington?

At 6:30pm on Sunday night, at Philadelphia's Vernon Park, anti-fracking activist and filmmaker Josh Fox, actress Shailene Woodley and political activist YahNe Ndgo will host a climate rally featuring Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon, followed by screening of Fox's new film How to Let Go of the World and Love All The Things Climate Can't Change, then a concert by Nahko Bear from Medicine for the People. The poster promoting the event offers an answer to the question of climate leadership: "The Climate Revolution Is Up to Us."

Watch Sandra Steingraber, biologist, author, activist and science advisor to the Americans Against Fracking coalition, explain why she’ll be at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 24:

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LeftStreamed: Before '68: The Left, Activism and Social Movements in the Long 1960s

Socialist Project - July 24, 2016 - 2:00am
Ernest Tate and Phil Hearse present Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s and 1960s. Ernest Tate's memoir is an important contribution to the history of the left in Britain and Canada during a unique period. Recorded in Norwich, 13 February 2016.
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Sanders Delegates Push DNC To Create Commission to Reform Anti-Democratic Superdelegates and Caucus Process

AlterNet.org - July 23, 2016 - 6:04pm
After a divisive afternoon, hours of negotiations bring results.

After a contentious afternoon in which the Democratic National Convention's Rules Committee voted down a series of proposals from the Sanders delegation to reform the most glaring anti-democratic features of the party's primary and caucus process, negotiators met in secret for several hours and forged an agreement to create a reform commission to change those rules for future elections.

"Let me call us America's party," said Texas Congresswomen Sheila Jackson, who rose to support the proposal after opposing the Sanders camp's amendments only hours before. "And America's party, the Democratic Party, links arms with our brothers and sisters from Senator Sanders, and the journey that they made and their supporters, and the journey that was made by Hillary Rodham Clinton's supporters.

"But most of all what I want to say is that divide is no more," she continued. "That we will climb this journey of victory together. That our arms will be linked and we will go to the floor of this great convention. And I am here to say thank you for being who you are. For I see that mountain that we have been challenged to cover, and I am going to say, we shall overcome and elect the next president of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, together... together... together."

The reform commission, which was then approved with 158 yeses, 6 nos and 1 abstention, will look at the main grievances raised by Sanders during the 2016 nominating season: that state party-run caucuses were non-democratic in their counting and allocation of delegates to the next stages in the process, and will, according to Sanders delegates who negotiated, shrink by two-thirds the number of so-called superdelegates, or the party insiders who comprise one-sixth of the 2016 national convention delegates.

"I rise in support of this measure because this is the result of reasoned discussions by many leaders within both campaigns, but it is truly driven by an activism, an activism within the Democratic Party that has been embraced, that has been engaged, and that we should continue to promote," said Paul Feeney, a Sanders delegate who headed his campaign in Massachusetts and Connecticut. "It's no coincidence that so many amendments have been filed today about superdelegates. The supporters of Bernie Sanders have risen up across this country. Acted up. Not to demand a new party, but to make the Democratic Party even better. That's what we're doing with this amendment. That's what we are doing with this revolution that is also an evolution."

The turnaround came after a frustrating afternoon for Sanders delegates, when it seemed the convention's rules committee was parting ways from the party's platform committee by thwarting their call for democratic reforms. The Sanders campaign won 13 million votes, 1,900 delegates and broke the party's fundraising records for the number of small donors, the delegates told the room, in part to push for concessions on the reforms they sought.

But before panel chair Barney Frank called a recess after 4pm, the convention Rules Committee repeatedly rejected a series of reforms to their “superdelegate” system, despite the pleas of Sanders delegates who urged the 165-member body to accommodate millions of voters who want a more open and less rigged presidential nominating process.

Superdelegates are top elected federal and state officials, state party leaders and key allies like labor union executives who can cast a vote for the presidential nominee and also sit on a range of convention committees, from drafting the platform to rules. For months, Sanders and his supporters have complained that the system gave Clinton an unfair lead as hundreds of party officials sided with her before states even started voting, which tilted the media coverage despite Sanders rallies drawing many thousands.

His delegates were hoping to convince the party to change that system, as well as reform the caucus process and adopt more open primaries, in which any voter, not just registered Democrats could participate. But several hours into hearings on Saturday seemed to signal that a majority of the rules panel were not willing to shake up the party’s status quo.

Before they broke to negotiate and propose the commission, the panel heard short debate and then voted down a handful of reforms, from eliminating the system of superdelegates in its entirety to reducing their numbers and limiting their voting.     

“I am asking those of you from the Clinton camp to take heed,” said Julie Hurwitz, a Sanders delegate from Detroit, speaking in favor of a compromise that would have let superdelegates vote if there was no clear nominee on the first convention ballot. “I would ask you to not just blindly vote no, no, no… The stakes are so high that I plead for you to take this issue seriously.”

“We have had these rules in place for 30 or 40 years,” said George Albro, a Sanders delegate from New York, responding to those who said now was not the time to act. “We’ve had a lot of time to study it. We don’t have a lot of time to change it. If we walk out of this room with our heads hanging low… The only standard that we are holding the DNC to is the standard of democracy.”

But a series of amendments were repeatedly rejected by two-to-one margins, especially after longtime officeholders said the superdelegate system never swayed a presidential nomination by ignoring the popular vote.

“This is more non-democratic,” said Jackson Lee in response to a proposal cutting the number of superdelegates. “The [origin of] superdelegates was a healing process, when the party was fractured… It was not to divide us, it was not to be an elite process.”

She argued that superdelegates allowed the party to elevate many people of color and those from rural areas. However, that explanation, while swaying a majority of Rules Committee members, was not persuasive to Sanders delegates. They told the room the party must send a signal to the millions drawn to their campaign that their call for a more open process was heard.

“This is the correct forum to have this discussion,” said North Carolina’s Chris O’Hara. “With all due respect… if superdelegates were put in place to heal a divided party, we are a divided party… I beseech you to actually listen.”

“The Republicans have basically nominated a fascist. It’s close. Please take a critical look at this,” said Delaware’s Rebecca Powers.

“I think this is the time for this,” said Miami’s Bruce Jacobs. “You are sending a message to all the people coming into the party.”
 
The Rules Committee compromise came after heavy pressure from Democratic-leaning organizations, which gathered more than 750,000 signatures calling for change, flew a plane over Philadelphia Friday calling for an end to superdelegates, and sent thousands of tweets to rules committee members. There was high interest in the votes, and shouts of “shame, shame, shame” from outside the committee room could be heard on a live Youtube stream of the meeting.

The groups that urged the DNC to end superdelegates include Courage Campaign, Credo, Daily Kos, Demand Progress/Rootstrikers, Democracy for America, Center for Popular, Democracy, MoveOn, National Nurses United, New Democrat Network, the Other 98%, Presente, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Progressive Democrats of America, Progressive Kick, Reform the DNC, and Social Security Works.

Editor's note: Another reform proposal, to push the party to open its primaries to all registered voters, not just Democrats, was rejected on Saturday evening. Today Open Primaries, a non-profit electoral reform organization, brought 40,000 signed petitions to the meeting, a release noted. “It was an honor to stand up for the 26.3 million registered voters who couldn’t vote in this presidential election," Maggie Wunderly, a Rules Committee member from Illinois said in the release.

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Ivanka Trump Is Evidence of Her Father’s Misogyny

AlterNet.org - July 23, 2016 - 4:40pm
When women represent themselves and not a white man, Trump and his followers become unnerved.

Part and parcel of the Trump campaign’s brand is its misogyny. From the witch-burning vibe of the Republican National Convention’s second night to Trump’s own campaign-trail commentary on the appearance of various women and the menstrual cycle of a debate moderator, resentment of the growing power of women is a driving force among Trump supporters, especially as he vies for the presidency against Hillary Clinton. The notion of a woman president, so galling to so many, represents a fear that Trump has exploited without compunction.

The result has been high negative poll ratings among women for the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. To soften those edges among women watching the Republican National Convention from the comfort of their living rooms, Trump dispatched his daughter, Ivanka, to the podium Thursday night to make the case that her father is a caring patriarch who has the interests and concerns of the nation’s working women at heart, and that he’s an empathetic and caring person—qualities that women value.

It’s hard not to like Ivanka Trump; she’s everything we’ve been taught to believe a woman should be. She’s beautiful and she’s clearly devoted to her family. She’s not known for saying unkind things, and doesn’t appear to toot her own horn. Her style of dress is classy and in a manner deemed to be “feminine,” and she even sells an accessible form of that style to working women via her eponymous clothing brand. She’s smart without making a point of it.

We don’t hear much from Trump on the campaign trail about the struggles of women, many of whom are saddled with the task of raising children while working full-time, the more privileged of whom often suffer discrimination in compensation on the basis of their gender. (People stuck in minimum-wage jobs earn the abysmal minimum wage, regardless of gender.)

Ivanka Trump, however, assured the viewers at home that her father supports equal pay for women and affordable child care. “American families need relief,” she said. “Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

Throughout the evening, video testimonials from women who work for the Trump Organization assured viewers that their boss has done more to promote the careers of women in business than most others, and that he values the women in his employ for their capabilities.

But step aside the arena perimeter and you’d find street vendors doing a brisk business in the crassest of misogynist campaign tchotchkes and apparel. A T-shirt emblazoned on the back in big, block letters: “TRUMP THAT BITCH.” (On the front: “Hillary sucks, but not as good as Monica.”) A button bearing Clinton’s face that reads: “Life’s a Bitch—Don’t Vote For One.” The perennial favorite, and most telling of all: the Hillary nutcracker.

The women who most loudly sing Trump’s praises as a champion of women to the voters all have one thing in common: In one way or another, they all report to him. In Trump World, there’s nothing wrong with putting a smart, capable woman in charge of a multimillion-dollar construction project, so long as The Donald holds her fate in his hands. To his followers, that still adheres in some way to the natural order of things: man calling the shots, woman doing the work.

The smart, capable women in his family no doubt know this. When Trump put first wife Ivana in charge of running the Plaza Hotel, which she did with great success, he famously said that he paid her $1 a year and all the dresses she could buy. He’s described Ivanka, his daughter, as “hot,” and said he’d probably date her if he wasn’t her father.

It’s when women represent themselves and not a white man that Trump and his followers become unnerved. A smart, capable woman who, in an act of self-agency, challenges their foul-mouthed white man? Then they become unhinged. When I found myself surrounded in the convention hall by delegates chanting, “Lock her up!” I knew it wasn’t just the Trumped-up allegations of criminality against the Democratic opponent that motivated the chant. It was the feminine pronoun in the chant.

But don’t think that the entire 70 percent of women who hold unfavorable views of Trump, according to a Washington Post/ABC News Poll, will allow that to keep them from blackening the box next to his name on election day. As I’ve written before, there are more than a few women for whom racial identity matters more than insults to their gender. To them, Trump is the logical choice.

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Robert Reich Is Furious with Debbie Wasserman Schultz After Alleged Email Leak: ‘Fire Her Now’

AlterNet.org - July 23, 2016 - 4:01pm
The emails are being released from Wikileaks after the party’s servers were hacked.

Class warrior and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is furious with Democratic Party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz as alleged emails are being released from Wikileaks after the party’s servers were hacked by Guccifer 2.0.

The alleged leaks reveal emails from staffers questioning former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ faith, Wasserman Schultz contacting NBC political news director Chuck Todd questioning commentary on “Morning Joe” and calling Republican nominee Donald Trump names.

Reich wrote on a Facebook post Saturday that the alleged emails “clearly show the DNC tried to sandbag Bernie’s campaign. As such, he believes “Hillary should fire Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Now. Don’t wait until next week to replace her.”

Reich continues, giving examples of alleged Clinton preference when the party should have remained impartial. “When the director of communications wanted to complain to CNN about a segment the network aired in which Bernie said he would oust the chairwoman if he were elected, Wasserman Schultz emails back, ‘he isn’t going to be president,'” he wrote.

“Other emails show officials of the DNC using ‘us’ language when referring to Hillary supporters and ‘them’ language in reference to Bernie’s,” Reich believes this is further evidence that the DNC was secretly working behind closed doors to help Clinton in the primary over Sanders.

Reich was a supporter of Sanders during the primary, tweeting, “He’s leading a movement to reclaim America for the many, not the few.”

“It is imperative that the Democratic leadership, both nationally and in the states, understand that the political world is changing and that millions of Americans are outraged at establishment politics and establishment economics,” Sanders said in a statement after the Nevada caucus, where party leaders accused the Sanders campaign of having a “penchant for violence.”

“The Democratic Party has a choice. It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change – people who are willing to take on Wall Street, corporate greed and a fossil fuel industry which is destroying this planet,” the Sanders statement continued. “Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.”

At a campaign stop in south Florida, Saturday, Clinton said from the stage that she was excited to have Wasserman Schultz’s help as the campaigns race toward November.

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Your Tim Kaine VP Primer: 7 Things You Should Know About Hillary Clinton’s Running Mate

AlterNet.org - July 23, 2016 - 3:52pm
Lacking in name recognition, the center-left senator from Virginia is the safe pick for Clinton's VP running mate.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on Friday announced Tim Kaine as her vice presidential running mate. Kaine is a more traditional (read: less progressive) politician than some of the other top picks, but also significantly less controversial. Here are some things you need to know about him:

1. Kaine is currently the junior senator from Virginia, having been elected in 2012 after Jim Webb retired. Before that he served as the governor, lieutenant governor, and mayor of Richmond.

2. He’s Catholic, but interestingly, still pro-choice. While he has previously admitted to having “a faith-based opposition to abortion” he also says, “Roe vs. Wade is ultimately about saying that there is a realm of personal liberty for people to make this decision” and “I don’t think ultimately we ought to be criminalizing abortion.”

 

3. One of the things that put Kaine over the edge in terms of a strong VP pick is the fact that he’s from Minnesota, but has served Virginia, which should help strengthen Clinton’s position in battleground states in both the South and Midwest.

4. He speaks fluent Spanish — he has delivered speeches on the Senate floor in Spanish.

5. Kaine supports strong action on climate change, decrying both climate change deniers and what he has termed “leadership deniers,” politicians who believe in climate change but don’t believe the U.S. should take a leadership role in reducing the world’s carbon footprint. “They say look, even if we reduce U.S. emission to zero, it wouldn’t offset world emissions unless China or India did something, and so let’s just not do anything,” Kaine said. “That is just not the American way, folks, for us not to lead on something important like that.”

6.  He’s been married to his wife, Anne Bright Holton, since 1984. They met while at Harvard Law and she is currently serving as the Secretary of Education in Virginia. The couple has three children together.

7. Kaine is a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, and opposed the Obama administration’s efforts to use the existing Authorization for Use of Military Force to expand action against ISIS in Iraq. At the time, he wrote in the Washington Post, “Ultimately, the allocation of war powers is based on a value. The nation should not send U.S. service members into harm’s way unless there is a consensus among the civilian leadership — executive and legislative — that the mission is worth it. Ordering people to risk their lives without Washington doing the work necessary to reach a political consensus is immoral.”

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Self-Care Isn’t Apathy: You Don’t Have to Watch the Whole Trump Horror Show

AlterNet.org - July 23, 2016 - 3:36pm
Let's pace ourselves, America—overdosing on insanity is killing our spirit.

Nope. I didn’t see it. Not live, as it unfolded, not Friday morning, as the spin kept rolling in. I have my limits, and my limit is voluntarily watching Donald Trump officially accept the Republican nomination for president of the United States. And over the next few months, I promise to not watch a whole lot more.

It’s not that the alarming spectacle that played out this week in Cleveland can be ignored. It’s not that we all don’t have a profound personal stake in the utterly terrifying agenda of Trump ticket. It’s this — you can’t immerse yourself in round-the-clock crazy and not go a little mad yourself. You can’t, as someone wisely said on Twitter recently, “constantly stare at a device that beams nightmares” into your eyes and not wind up “anxious.” And if you, this often bizarre and heartbreaking summer, sometimes decide to choose Pokémon Go over Make America Great Again, I totally get it.

Granted, I have the privilege/curse of working in the media, which means that I get heaping eyefuls of current events in my workday. By the time many of my friends come home in the evening, eager to catch up on the news, I am slumped at my desk and trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. There’s no part of kicking back and taking in even more upsetting words and images at that point that sounds even remotely mentally healthy.

But even if your 9–5 involves piping roses onto wedding cakes, can I still offer a little friendly advice? Pace yourself here. Remember that self-care is not apathy, and that sensory overload isn’t social justice. It’s estimated Americans consume roughly ten hours of media a day. And 33 percent percent of Americans — a full third — say thatthey follow the news all throughout the day. That is an overwhelming amount of information to take in — especially when a fair amount of that information involves a paranoid yelling person. Last fall, I attended an all-day event for journalists sponsored by the Dart Center, an organization for journalists who cover traumatic events. One phrase one of the event leaders mentioned has stuck in my mind ever since — “We spend our days consuming human distress.” And that is simply not a normal, natural, healthy, or — and this is important — sustainable — state of being. So on Tuesday evening, I was at “Ghostbusters.” The world didn’t need me to watch the trainwreck.

On Friday morning, my Facebook feed was neatly divided between friends who’d watched the Trump show and had a lot to say about it, and those who admitted they couldn’t bear to watch it. One person expressed that she couldn’t, but she was grateful to those who did, to bear witness. As for me, I oscillate between understanding the need to remain vigilant and also feeling pretty played when Trump ridiculously boasts that “Good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!” It often feels like a losing proposition to consider how much the very worst people in the world truly feed off our attention — even when that attention is pure disgust. I remind myself that we do not have a moral responsibility to participate in all of it and we certainly don’t have one to passively look at it. I remember that someone once reminded me, “You don’t need to go to every argument you’re invited to.” You don’t need to go to every political disaster either.

The conservative monsters have now created an unwinnable game for the rest of us. We ignore them at our peril, we watch them at the risk to our emotional well-being. All I can do is try to keep my own scales in balance. That means: going outside in the world and not looking at my phone. Talking to other normal, functioning human beings. Cooking. Listening to music. Hugging my kids. Because those things are not distractions from reality; they’re reality, too. If all I see is madness, all I lose is hope, and hope is the thing I need most right now. And I’m not going to make it to November if all the voices in my head are the enemy’s.

 

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