September 2, 2017 by
Media outlets and commentators representing a range of political persuasions have called attention to recent outbreaks of violence in Berkeley, Calif., Boston and other locations where anti-racist and anti-fascist demonstrators have gathered. Intentionally or not, they have often promoted a false equivalency between groups that advocate white supremacy and those that seek to eliminate it. Even mainstream media outlets that typically fact-check the president seem to have subtly bought into Mr. Trump’s “both sides” narrative regarding right- and left-wing extremism. They’ve run headlines that highlight small violent skirmishes while ignoring the thousands who marched and protested peacefully, to say nothing of the injustices that inspired the protests. A demonstrator clashed with a policeman during a civil rights protest in Nashville in 1964. Our complaint here is not about the right-wing media outlets that we know will continue to delegitimize anti-racist protest in any form — whether it’s peacefully sitting during the national anthem, marching in the streets, staging boycotts or simply making the apparently radical claim that “black lives matter.” Rather, our concern at this moment is with our moderate brothers and sisters who voice support for the cause of racial justice but simultaneously cling to paralyzingly unrealistic standards when it comes to what protest should look like. As Christian clergy members, we place a high value on nonviolence. We are part of a national campaign that promotes proven solutions to reducing gun violence in our cities, and each of us has worked to achieve peace in our neighborhoods. But we know there has never been a time in American history in which movements for justice have been devoid of violent outbreaks. Thanks to the sanitized images of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement that dominate our nation’s classrooms and our national discourse, many Americans imagine that protests organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and countless local organizations fighting for justice did not fall victim to violent outbreaks. That’s a myth. In spite of extensive training in nonviolent protest and civil disobedience, individuals and factions within the larger movement engaged in violent skirmishes, and many insisted on their right to physically defend themselves even while they proclaimed nonviolence as an ideal (examples include leaders of the SNCC and the Deacons for Defense and Justice in Mississippi). The reality — which is underdiscussed but essential to an understanding of our current situation — is that the civil rights work of Dr. King and other leaders was loudly opposed by overt racists and quietly sabotaged by cautious moderates. We believe that current moderates sincerely want to condemn racism and to see an end to its effects. The problem is that this desire is outweighed by the comfort of their current circumstances and a perception of themselves as above some of the messy implications of fighting for liberation. This is nothing new. In fact, Dr. King’s 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail” is as relevant today as it was then. He wrote in part: I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action.” National polling from the 1960s shows that even during that celebrated “golden age” of nonviolent protest, most Americans were against marches and demonstrations. A 1961 Gallup poll revealed that 57 percent of the public thought that lunch counter sit-ins and other demonstrations would hurt integration efforts. A 1963 poll showed that 60 percent had an unfavorable feeling toward the planned March on Washington, where Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. A year later, 74 percent said that since black people had made some progress, they should stop their demonstrations; and by 1969, 74 percent said that marching, picketing and demonstrations were hurting the civil rights cause. As for Dr. King personally, the figure who current moderates most readily point to as a model, 50 percent of people polled in 1966 thought that he was hurting the civil rights movement; only 36 percent believed he was helping. The civil rights movement was messy, disorderly, confrontational and yes, sometimes violent. Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait. They, we suspect, will be this generation’s version of the millions who claim that they were one of the thousands who marched with Dr. King. Each of us should realize that what we do now is most likely what we would have done during those celebrated protests 50 years ago. Rather than critique from afar, come out of your homes, follow those who are closest to the pain, and help us to redeem this country, and yourselves, in the process. Michael McBride is a pastor and the director of PICO National Network’s “Live Free” campaign. Traci Blackmon is the United Church of Christ’s executive minister of justice and witness. Frank Reid is the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s bishop of ecumenical affairs and social action. Barbara Williams Skinner is a co-convener of the National African American Clergy Network. source

September 2, 2017 by
The alt-right and its predecessors have long antagonized Silicon Valley for its views and practices, but it wasn’t until James Damore that they truly mobilized to take down one of its companies. No sooner had the former Google software engineer been fired for penning and circulating a manifesto titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” did the alt-right co-opt his narrative. Overnight, whether or not he was in on the coordination, Damore became their Silicon Valley mouthpiece. They whisked him on to an interview with prominent alt-right YouTuber Stefan Molyneux. They carefully focused his brand as an unjustly persecuted truth-teller with an image of him wearing a Goolag t-shirt, photographed by Peter Duke, who’s known for shooting portraits of the alt-right. They used his story as a springboard to launch a Breitbart News series called the “Rebels of Google,” featuring Q&As with former and current Googlers who are alt-right sympathizers. They even called for national marches across Google’s campuses, though the organizers postponed them (paywall) after Charlottesville, citing threats from “alt-left terrorists.” It is no accident that the alt-right chose Damore’s firing as their catalyst. This was not the first time accusations over a tech giant’s censorship of their views sparked outrage within the movement. Breitbart News has vigilantly tracked Facebook’s “war on free speech” since the 2016 US election campaign. Gab, a “free speech” social media platform popular among the alt-right, was created in response to Twitter’s censorship policies. But more than any other tech giant in the Valley, Google is synonymous with progressivism. And when the confluence of several other variables—the seemingly rational tone of the manifesto; Damore’s awkward and unassuming demeanor; the hyper-attentive mainstream media—rolled out a carpet to the national stage, the choice to attack only became more obvious. This is the “beginning of the alt-tech revolution,” Gab founder Andrew Torba told the Washington Post. Though Google has been mired in unflattering headlines as of late, it has long enjoyed a reputation of being one of the most inclusive and progressive companies in Silicon Valley. Early in its history, the company pursued (what were at the time) radical policies to engender an employee-centric environment: internal diversity initiatives, diversity-conscious hiring practices, flexible work hours, liberal maternity and paternity leave policies. “They were the first to really do it,” says Jen Carlile, a former Google software engineer. “It became the model for a lot of other companies in the Valley.” In these ways, it embodied the ethos of Silicon Valley: be open, be transparent, use technology to change the world. Today, in an industry roiled by diversity and sexual harassment issues, Google preserves its benevolent reputation. Externally, its community-based initiatives—Girls Who Code and Made with Code to promote women in STEM; CODE2040 to foster black and Latinx tech talent—solidify its image as a force of good. Internally, its culture is considered by many as the safest haven for minorities in tech. As I heard over and over again from minorities who worked at Google or Silicon Valley at large, no place in tech is actually good for women and people of color, but Google is as good as it gets. It’s really trying. “Apple, Amazon, companies like that, first and foremost, they’re businesses in the eyes of the public,” Carlile says. “Google is more of a symbol than it is a business”—a symbol of radical idealism, staunch optimism, and unrelenting positive change. That Google maintains this reputation in spite of turning its fortune from harvesting, parsing, and, in many ways, exploiting people’s data is only further testament to how deep its symbolism runs. This is what makes it the perfect target for the alt-right. For the predominantly young, internet-savvy branch of white nationalism, bred within the underground meme-ridden culture of anonymous discussion forums like 4chan, few things feel more powerful than the subversion of benevolence, authority, and political correctness. Their tactics to push white nationalist ideas into the mainstream stem from this philosophy: Find the benign, the benevolent, the mundane and “corrupt” it with associations of fear and hatred. This is how Pepe the Frog, a children’s cartoon, became a symbol of white nationalism. This is also why alt-right protesters chug milk at rallies to assert white superiority. In online forums where the alt-right thrives, the reappropriation of such symbols to troll and demoralize proliferate. “Part of this is down to the alt-right’s addiction to provocation,” writes Breitbart in “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” The other part is an attempt “to normalize itself and its ideas,” reports Wired. As symbols that remind people of the alt-right become more ubiquitous, the movement gains strength. The coordinated attacks on Google neatly follow the same pattern. By brandishing Damore’s manifesto as proof of Google’s “authoritarian” overreach and evoking Big Brother-like descriptions of groupthink, the alt-right begins to pervert a once-benevolent symbol into a disturbing one. Working at Google requires suffering through “constant abuse, sneers, insults and smears from people who detest that you disagreed with them,” details one article in Breitbart’s “Rebels of Google” series. “If the company continues along its current authoritarian route, as exposed by the firing of viewpoint diversity advocate James Damore, the personal data of ordinary users would be put at risk,” writes another. The strategy is working. Mainstream media outlets have begun to adopt the same language. In a Fox News segment aired a week after Damore’s firing, commentator Tucker Carlson described Google’s statement on the incident as “perhaps the most Orwellian statement written since Orwell himself finished 1984.” “Google has shown a willingness to distort reality for ideological ends,” Carlson continued. “A lot of us trusted Google not to be evil. … It’s now obvious that Google cannot be trusted.” A New York Times opinion piece (paywall) titled “Google doesn’t want the best for us” echoed the sentiment. “Rules set by Google are the rules we all abide by,” writes guest contributor Jonathan Taplin. But such power unchecked leaves the public vulnerable to “the heart of Google’s business: surveillance capitalism.” Perhaps ironically, the recent activity hasn’t really disturbed Silicon Valley itself. One Bay Area-based Google employee, who has worked at the company for six years, told me that the incident hasn’t changed her experience at work, nor does she believe it will affect the company’s image among potential job candidates. A New York employee, Lauren, said that the way Google and its employees handled the situation only reminded her of why she loves working there. Based on her conversations within the San Francisco engineering and startup communities, Carlile agrees: “It doesn’t seem to have had that much of an impact on how people see Google or, if there is such a thing, the general culture of Silicon Valley.” But ultimately, it’s the public’s, not the Valley’s, perception that matters. The public is spooked; Google is suspect. And because Google acts as a guardian to Silicon Valley’s ideology, to question Google is to question it all. Google was not prepared to fight this fight. Though it has faced legal scrutiny before, such as with the gender pay discrimination case brought by the US Department of Labor and the anti-trust charges (paywall) in Europe, never has it handled such a wide PR scandal. What the company saw as a logical response, firing Damore, played directly into the alt-right’s playbook and blew up in its face. Sundar Pichai was slammed—New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks called for the CEO’s resignation (paywall)—while founders Sergey Brin’s and Larry Page’s responses were, as usual, notably absent. An all-hands meeting on Aug. 10 that was supposed to help employees decompress had to be cancelled after an internal form that employees had been using to anonymously submit questions was leaked. The day before, alt-right pundit Milo Yiannopoulos doxxed eight employees who had criticized Damore’s memo. Google has since scrambled to clean up the mess. On multiple occasions, spokespeople have emphasized the company’s staunch support for freedom of expression and “strong policies against retaliation, harassment and discrimination in the workplace.” After the cancelled all-hands, Pichai spoke at a girls’ coding event hosted by Made with Code. But the tech giant is having a hard time sweeping the incident under the rug. Last week, Damore’s hiring of prominent Republican lawyer Harmeet Dhillon provoked a fresh wave of media scrutiny. Two weeks after the memo was first released, I called a close friend who had worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley, though not Google, to ask her thoughts about Damore and the suddenly apparent alt-right sympathizers working within the company. Was she surprised? I asked. Not really, she admitted. She had never really bought into Google’s and the Valley’s pristine veneer. But “this is a strong reminder,” she added, a reminder that there is ugliness lurking in the dark. source

September 1, 2017 by
Now that he has departed the White House as President Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon is returning to his old job as editor of Breitbart News with more influence than ever. But the alt-right “news” website isn’t the only project that Bannon is involved in. In late July, I was given a flash drive and instructions to attend a meeting in a vacant rented storefront in Utica, N.Y., about 80 miles west of Albany, which led me to discover another, lesser known organization operating under Bannon’s guidance — one whose objective seems to be the crippling of local government in order to build, from the grassroots up, a constituency mistrustful of elected officials, institutions and public policy. Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer, CEO of Renaissance Technologies, owner of the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica, major donor to the Trump campaign, investor in Breitbart News, who is funding Reclaim New York. While this campaign is playing out in upstate rural New York, its headquarters are at 597 Fifth Avenue in New York City, at an office that houses the data mining company Cambridge Analytica. Owned by Long Island billionaire hedge fund manager and Trump’s largest campaign contributor Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica has come under FBI investigation for spreading Russian propaganda during the 2016 election to manipulate voter turnout. Mercer was also active in the 2016 elections in his home state of New York, donating $500,000  to Congressman John Faso’s superPAC to beat Democratic challenger, Zephyr Teachout. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon. Mercer also helped fund Breitbart News with an investment of $10 million. Sharing Mercer’s New York office — Cambridge Analytica also has offices in London and Washington, D.C. — is a smaller organization called Reclaim New York, often called simply “Reclaim.”  It, too, is funded by Mercer, but has been operating under the radar with minimal press attention since at least 2015. At the beginning of the summer, The Edge received sensitive documents, including Reclaim’s tax returns, from a source familiar with Reclaim. What we found was alarming. Here is what those documents and our investigation show: Rebekah and Robert Mercer. Reclaim New York is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Its 2015 tax returns show that the organization operates with a revenue of $1.25 million, has expenses of $1.05 million, (which include a $100 thousand payment to a New York consulting firm), and spends $36,000 on advertising annually. Most importantly however, Reclaim purports, both on its website and in a statement from a spokeswoman at its New York office, to be “nonpartisan.” However, also listed in the tax returns is Steve Bannon, who is marked down as having served as the vice chairman of Reclaim since last August. Also on the board of directors is Leonard Leo, the vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, and Robert Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who served on the executive committee for then President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and is now the Treasurer of Reclaim. The ‘affordability crisis’ flyer that was distributed to the Reclaim training session in Utica. Having board members who have donated to, and worked closely with, Donald Trump is no sure sign that Reclaim isn’t living up to its “nonpartisan” requirement. Plenty of nonpartisan initiatives, such as The Brookings Institute and Better World Campaign, are led by directors who have worked in the Obama and Bush administrations. And Reclaim’s professed mission to hold local government accountable isn’t necessarily driven by partisan intent. According to Gallup, 75 percent of Americans believe that there is “widespread corruption” in government — and that was before the 2016 elections. John Byrne, addressing meeting of Reclaim N.Y. in Utica. What makes Reclaim different is its agenda. The organization uses money from the Mercer family to hold meetings across rural towns in New York. From Long Island to the Hudson Valley, Reclaim rents spaces in local offices and restaurants where it holds what it calls “information sessions” to which the public is warmly welcomed. At meetings like this, a team of Reclaim staff, sometimes from other states, instructs the attendees on how to hold their local governments (especially school boards) financially accountable. They do this by training volunteers to file Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to these municipalities. In Massachusetts, such queries are typically called public records requests. Reclaim New York claims to have instigated 2,500 FOIL requests and amassed a mailing list of 25,000. In its 2015 tax return, Reclaim asserts: “By using the Freedom of Information Law, Reclaim is securing the fiscal year checkbooks from every school district, village, town, city, and county in the state. This data will be made public in the state’s first online, searchable database for local government expenditures. In parallel, citizen training will be conducted to illustrate how to access government information and to crowdsource the effort across the state. Ultimately, these efforts will coalesce to create a more responsible government that fosters proactive transparency.” Reclaim Nw York staff, at right, confronting skeptic. I wanted to see just how Reclaim trains New York residents, and whether the organization was making good on holding local governments accountable. So on July 20, I traveled to Utica, N.Y., to attend a Reclaim meeting entitled, “The Affordability Crisis: How to Stop Our Neighbors from Leaving.” Although Utica is by no means a wealthy city, Reclaim was apparently insinuating that corrupt local government had imposed such high taxes that it was compelling people to move out of the community. Reclaim held its presentation in a small commercial storefront off Main Street. Before an audience of 19, the guest speaker was introduced by a former state assemblyman, Steven Keblish. The speaker, John Byrne, was not from Utica, but from Oneonta. He began with a colorful PowerPoint presentation with charts and surveys showing how New York state’s taxes are too high. The premise of his pitch was that not only are taxes in New York too high but that local representatives could not be trusted to spend the tax money wisely. Among the puzzling aspects of Byrne’s presentation, however, was the fact that none of his surveys and statistics cited their sources. When asked by an audience member about where his information came from, Bryne’s face turned bright red, as he stammered, “I’ll get back to you on that.” A woman from Chatham, New York, who did not want to disclose her name, questioned the premise of Reclaim, asking, “Sure, there are corrupt government officials, but are we to assume that everyone is corrupt and that all taxes are bad? I want to pay taxes for roads and schools, don’t you?” Immediately a group of four men sitting in the front row turned back to face the questioner. They looked to be in their mid-30s and all wore similar outfits — polo shirts and slacks. One interjected, “Don’t you want to know how your taxes are being spent?” The man, who told me later that he was also with Reclaim, appeared strikingly offended by the question on taxes. Byrne, now completely flushed and turning paler, attempted to regain control of the conversation. “When was the last time you filed a FOIL request?” he asked the woman from Chatham. The room fell silent. Nobody in attendance had filed a FOIL request before. Turning back to the projector, he ran through a series of slides showing how each of us could file a FOIL request to our local boards of education requesting their checkbooks from the past fiscal year. “It’s your right,” he proclaimed. “You should demand accountability because we don’t know what these people are up to.” “So what do you do if you file a FOIL to a school board and they don’t respond? Do you sue them?” another attendee asked. Byrne denied that Reclaim would press litigation, but seemed uneasy. “Let’s move on,” he said, quickly scrolling to the last slide. Before he could finish, another question was thrown at him: “What do getting these checkbooks tell us? Are you finding any corruption?” The man standing at the back of room who asked the question seemed skeptical. Evidently confused, Byrne replied, “I think it just helps keep them accountable.” At the end of the presentation, two people volunteered to go to other Reclaim events. They seemed interested in lower taxes and believed that Reclaim was taking an honest and effective approach. Steve Bannon at the Owl’s Nest, the Mercer Long Island compound, after the November election. Later that evening I spoke with Michael Kink, the executive director of the Strong Economy For All Coalition and an attorney familiar with Reclaim. I asked him if getting the checkbooks from local school boards would uncover malfeasance, and why Reclaim was so adamant about training New Yorkers to file FOIL requests in massive numbers. “They have taken a great tool, FOIL, and weaponized it,” he said. “Look, wanting to know how your government spends tax money is perfectly fine, but what they are doing is different. They try to get as many people to file FOIL requests and overburden small school boards and municipalities. They send hundreds, if not thousands, of these requests and they know that the respondents often can’t reply to all of them on time. When a school board refuses to respond, or fails to do so in the allotted 20 days, Reclaim sues them. It’s a way of intimidating and crippling local governments, not actually holding them accountable.” I spoke with Gianni Ortiz, a member of Indivisible Chatham — a chapter of the national organization to resist Trump’s agenda. She echoed Kink’s words, adding, “Steve Bannon was deeply involved with Reclaim. It fits his mission to make people distrustful of government. It could be part of Mercer’s goal to make New York State more Republican or pro-Trump. Remember, Mercer was one of the biggest donors to New York congressional races last cycle, including New York District 19’s John Faso to which Mercer and his daughter Rebekah contributed $1 million. He wants lower taxes for himself and his friends. The whole agenda there is very cynical.” Cynicism aside, it’s hard to take Reclaim’s glossy website about grassroots activism and citizen engagement seriously. The website fails to provide evidence that its approach holds school boards accountable, or that any of the information displayed on the statistics it shows come from legitimate sources. Reclaim asks its audience to believe in its cause, but expects blind faith in the assumption that all local governments are deeply corrupt. That hasn’t stopped Reclaim from submitting 2,500 FOIL requests to 91 towns in Westchester County, 32 in Rockland County, and 45 in Columbia County. Although 83 percent of the requests were complied with, Reclaim is currently suing five school boards in the Hudson Valley for failing to respond to their requests. Some school districts, like the one in Peekskill, a town of 24,000 along the Hudson River south of Poughkeepsie, are resisting. In response to Reclaim New York’s suit, the school district says it had already turned over 200 pages of documents but declined to provide copies of individual checks. The district argued that it would provide that level of detail if Reclaim dropped its suit. If Ortiz is right, Reclaim’s pitch is nothing more than a façade for an organization whose mission is to sow distrust in government, school boards, and public education. Whether this strategy will work is unclear. But before departing from the White House, Bannon met with Mercer to talk about future projects. A Harvard Business School classmate of Bannon’s once described him as a brilliant thinker and one of the most intellectual and cunning people in the room — and Bannon has declared his intention to “deconstruct the administrative state.” His strategy of using political opponents to his advantage is well documented. Reclaim New York achieves, or at least sets out to achieve, Bannon’s goals. It takes advantage of people who want to become involved in grassroots activism. It lures them in with an opportunity to file FOIL requests, and then uses laws that were meant to hold government accountable to undermine those very governments. source

August 31, 2017 by
Donald Trump’s ability to issue presidential pardons has been the ultimate weapon looming over Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump could potentially pardon himself of any crimes. More important, he could dangle a pardon to his former staffers to encourage them not to supply Mueller with any incriminating information on Trump. Mueller is apparently handling his investigating like the prosecution of a mob boss, pressuring underlings to flip on the boss. Trump’s advantage is that, unlike a mob boss, he can give out an unlimited number of get-out-of-jail-free cards. Trump has reportedly mused in public about using the pardon — and his pardon of Joe Arpaio flaunted his willingness to use it on behalf of a political ally, even in outrageous fashion. Special counsel Robert Mueller. But it turns out that there is a flaw in Trump’s strategy. The presidential pardon only applies to federal crimes. As NBC reported last night, it is possible for state governments to press charges in some of the alleged crimes committed by Trump’s cronies. “You would have to find that one of those [election] crimes occurred in New York,” Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor, told NBC. Of course, some of the alleged crimes almost certainly did take place in New York. And sure enough, Josh Dawsey reports, Mueller is teaming up with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering,” he notes. Trump can pardon anybody facing charges from Mueller, but not from Schneiderman. It is probably significant that Mueller is letting this fact be known to Trump’s inner circle. Trump’s biggest source of leverage over Mueller just disappeared. source Read More: Mueller teams up with New York attorney general in Manafort probe Exclusive: Top Trump aide's email draws new scrutiny in Russia inquiry Trump Jr. delivers ‘smoking gun’ to Mueller Can Trump use the presidential pardon to thwart the Russia investigations? Trump lawyers asking about presidential pardon powers: report Could Trump Pardon Himself? Probably Not Trump Raises an Army

August 31, 2017 by
I know that Harvey is heavy on America’s heart. It is certainly heavy on mine. My oldest brother lives in the hard-hit suburban Houston town of Humble, just outside of George Bush Intercontinental Airport and on the shores of the Spring Creek and the west fork of the San Jacinto River. And now the storm is barreling toward my hometown in North Louisiana where my mother and two of my brothers live. I’m anxious. I wish that I could take a reprieve from politics and simply focus on the human suffering and human altruism on display in the affected areas. But, alas, I cannot. Politics keep creeping in. Politics keep occurring concurrently. President Trump promoting tax cuts in Springfield, Mo., on Wednesday. Set aside for a moment that Donald Trump is the person who pulled America out of the Paris climate accords, even though models suggest that climate change makes severe weather more severe, and as Politico reports, “Harvey is the third 500-year flood to hit the Houston area in the past three years.” Forget for a moment that, according to Slate, just 10 days before Harvey made landfall Trump signed an executive order that included “eliminating an Obama-era rule called the federal flood risk management standard that asked agencies to account for climate change projections when they approved projects.” The final assessment on how this administration handles the storm can’t be made while it still rages, but what Trump says and does now is open to analysis. In that vein, a line from Trump’s joint press conference with the president of Finland stood out. When asked about pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio as Harvey was making landfall, Trump responded: “Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.” Consider what this man is saying: He used the horror and anxious anticipation of a monster storm menacing millions of Americans — particularly in Houston whose population is 44 percent Hispanic — in a political calculation to get more ratings and more eyeballs on the fact that he was using the power of the presidency to forgive, and thereby condone, Arpaio’s racism. Why does Trump continue to do things that are so divisive and alienating to the majority of Americans? Why does he keep fueling the white-hot fire of his base to the exclusion of the other segments of the country? I have a theory: Trump and the people who either shield or support him are locked in a relationship of reciprocation, like a ball of snakes. Everyone is using everyone else. The oligarchs see Trump as a pathway to slashing regulations and cutting taxes for the rich. According to a July analysis by the Tax Policy Center, “Nearly 40 percent of the tax cut would flow to households in the top 1 percent of the income distribution, giving those earners an average annual tax cut of around $270,000.” Establishment Republicans see him as a path to reversing the New Deal. Steve Bannon-ists see him as a path to the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” All Republicans, but particularly the religious right, see him as a securer of conservative Supreme Court justices. The blue-collar Trump voters view him as a last chance to breathe life into the dying dream that waning industries and government-supported white cultural assurances can be revived. And the white nationalists, white supremacists, racists and Nazis — to the degree that they can be separated from the others — see him as a tool of vengeance and as an instrument of their defense. Trump sees all these people who want to use him, and he’s using them right back. Trump made an industry out of selling conspicuous consumption. He sold the ideas that greed was good, luxury was aspirational and indulgence was innocent. Trump’s supporters see him as vector; he sees them as market. Marketing is how he has made his money and attained his infamy. That is why he is so obsessed with the media and crowds and polls (at least when he was doing well in them): He sees people, in his die-hard base at least, who have thoroughly bought into the product of Trumpism and he is doing everything to please them and make them repeat customers. But in addition, and perhaps more sinisterly, I think that Trump is raising an army, whether or not he would describe it as such, and whether or not those being involved recognize their own conscription. This is not a traditional army, but it is an army no less. And, when I say army, I’m not speaking solely of armed militia, although there is a staggering number of guns continuously being put into circulation. As the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action wrote in June: “Each month of Trump’s presidency has seen over two million firearm-related background checks. Only in 2016, when Americans faced losing their Second Amendment rights forever, did the F.B.I. run more checks during a January to April period.” I’m also talking about the unarmed, but unwavering: the army of zombie zealots. How do you raise an army? You do that by dividing America into tribes and, as “president,” aligning yourself with the most extreme tribe, all the while promoting militarization among people who support you. You do it by worshiping military figures and talking in militaristic terms. You reverse Barack Obama’s executive order on gun control. As PolitiFact put it: “Obama’s order made it mandatory for the Social Security Administration to release information about mentally ill recipients of Social Security benefits. This information would then be included in background checks, essentially prohibiting people with mental illnesses to buy guns.” You cozy up to police unions and encourage police brutality. You do this by rescinding Obama-era limits on the militarization of police departments; a move that, according to The New York Times, allows these departments “access to military surplus equipment typically used in warfare, including grenade launchers, armored vehicles and bayonets.” You do this by defending armed white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville. You do this by defending monuments of Confederates who fought to preserve the noxious institution of slavery, and you do it by tweeting the coded language of white supremacists: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.” You do this by pardoning Arpaio, a man who joked about an Arizona jail being a “concentration camp,” signaling to people that racist brutality is permissible. You also do this by attempting to reduce or marginalize populations of people opposed to you: Build a wall, return to failed drug policies that helped fuel mass incarceration, ban Muslims, curb even legal immigration, increase immigration arrests. And why raise this army? Again, I have a theory. Should something emerge from the Robert Mueller investigation — an investigation that is continuing unabated even as Harvey rages — that should implicate Trump and pose a threat to the continuation of his tenure, Trump wants to position any attempt to remove him as a political coup. His efforts to delegitimize the press are all part of this because one day the press may have to deliver ruinous news. In that scenario, Trump knows that the oligarchs and establishment Republicans would be quick to abandon him. Their support isn’t intrinsic; it’s transactional. But the base — the market — the ones with guns as well as those who are simply excited, the die-hards, the ones he keeps appealing to and applauding, will not forsake him. They see attacks on Trump as attacks on themselves. Trump is playing an endgame. In the best-case scenario, these die-hards are future customers; in the worst, they are future confederates. If these people should come to believe — as Trump would have them believe — that establishment systems have unfairly and conspiratorially acted to remove from office their last and only champion — another thing Trump would have them believe — what will they do? What would Trump’s army do if he were compelled to leave but refused to graciously comply? source Read More: Trump is sending a message by pardoning Sheriff Arpaio Why Donald Trump Pardoned Joe Arpaio Trump Reverses Restrictions on Military Hardware for Police WATCH: Trump Encourages Police to Be More Aggressive With Arrestees Warning signs of mass violence – in the US? Donald Trump has every reason to keep white people thinking about race State Dept. science envoy resigns with letter that spells out 'Impeach' Cities join call for impeachment Alex Jones is frequently indicating his willingness to personally kill people in a bloody second civil war.

August 30, 2017 by
More than 1,850 leaders from around the country pleaded with President Trump on Wednesday to preserve an Obama administration program that protects DREAMers from deportation. Trump is considering ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which President Barack Obama created. It has granted deportation protections to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Eight governors, five state attorneys general, more than 130 mayors, 230 state legislators, and a slew of faith leaders, judges, police chiefs and sheriffs signed onto a statement asking Trump to reconsider. The vast majority of the signers are Democrats, including all the governors and attorneys general. They represent states ranging from California and Oregon to Minnesota, New York and Virginia. The list includes several Republicans, as well, such as Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Aurora (Colo.) Mayor Steve Hogan. In the letter, the group highlights the economic contributions DREAMers have made to their communities since the program was created in 2012. They said the U.S. economy would lose $460 billion over the next decade if DACA were terminated. In addition, businesses would incur $3.4 billion in turnover costs to replace their DACA employees, who are given work permits under the program, the letter said. Most importantly, the signers stressed the moral obligation of the U.S. to protect those undocumented immigrants, calling an end of the program "senselessly cruel." "Five years ago we made a promise to them that they could continue to stay here and work towards achieving their American dreams," said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat. "Now there are national leaders cruelly threatening to break that promise, a move that would fly in the face of everything we stand for as a nation that welcomes those seeking opportunity for a better life." "As governor I will do everything I can to keep our Dreamers safe here, at home," Inslee added. Federal agents deported 23-year-old DREAMer, Juan Manuel Montes. He is the first protected immigrant to be deported back to Mexico The DACA program grants two-year stays for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States before their 16th birthday who have attended school or joined the military and have not committed any serious crimes. It also grants them work permits. The program was created through a memorandum by the Department of Homeland Security, which means it can be rescinded without any input from Congress. The president could decide to eliminate the program immediately, or simply stop approving new applications and allow the remaining DACA terms to expire. During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to end the program, calling it another example of Obama's abuse of executive power. After winning the presidential election, Trump changed his position, expressing sympathy for the young immigrants and saying he would treat them with "great heart." Republican leaders in 10 states have threatened to sue the administration if it doesn't end the program by next Tuesday. John Kelly, the president's chief of staff and former secretary of Homeland Security, has said such a lawsuit is likely to prevail, meaning DACA's days are probably numbered. Trump has been vague about what he will do. "It’s a decision that I make, and it’s a decision that’s very, very hard to make," Trump said in July. The White House and Homeland Security did not respond immediately to requests for comment. source Read More: Immigration Town Hall - FSTV/MNN Exclusive: U.S. immigration raids to target teenaged suspected gang members Man on viral video being deported, cop who questioned his immigration status fired How US Lawmakers Get Involved in Immigration Cases

August 30, 2017 by
U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism of journalists amounts to an attack on the freedom of the press and could provoke violence against reporters, the United Nations’ human rights chief said on Wednesday. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said Trump had also made worrying remarks about women, Mexicans and Muslims and went on to question the president’s approach to immigration and decision to pardon former Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights gestures during a news conference at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland August 30, 2017. There was no immediate response from the White House on the wide-ranging rebuke of Trump’s repeated references to the “fake media” and some of his other statements and decisions. “It’s really quite amazing when you think that freedom of the press, not only sort of a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution but very much something that the United States defended over the years is now itself under attack from the President,” the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said. “It’s sort of a stunning turnaround. And ultimately the sequence is a dangerous one,” he told a news conference in Geneva. Referring to the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN, he added: “To call these news organizations ’fake’ does tremendous damage and to refer to individual journalists in this way, I have to ask the question is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists?” Zeid voiced concern that a journalist from the Guardian had been “assaulted in the United States most recently” but gave no details. Trump rounded on journalists last week, calling them “truly dishonest people” and criticizing their coverage of a white supremacist-organized rally in Virginia and the political fallout from his comments that violence there was caused by “many sides”. U.S. President Donald Trump talks to journalists at the Oval Office of the White House after the AHCA health care bill was pulled before a vote in Washington, U.S. March 24, 2017. “TABOO BREAKER” Nazi salutes, swastikas, anti-Semitic slurs and racist references to African-Americans had “no place in the United States or beyond”, Zeid said, in his first comments on the events in Charlottesville. Trump has also made worrying remarks about women, Mexicans and Muslims, “mocked a person with disabilities publicly” and issued a directive on a transgender ban in the military, he said. “The President prides himself as a taboo breaker, indeed his supporters see him as such. But at the time I expressed my feeling that this was grossly irresponsible, because it has consequences, it emboldens those who may think similarly to sharpen their assaults on these communities,” he said. Zeid voiced deep concern at Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt in a racial profiling case that highlighted tensions over immigration policy. “Does the President support racial profiling, of Latinos in particular, does he support abuse of prisoners? Arpaio referred at one stage to the open-air prison that he set up as a concentration camp, he later recanted said it was a joke,” Zeid said. “Does the president support this? These actions have consequences.” Zeid, comparing the leadership role of a U.S. president to a bus driver, said: ”I almost feel that the President is driving the bus of humanity and we’re careening down a mountain path. “And in taking these measures, at least from a human rights perspective, it seems to be reckless driving.” source Read More: United Nations Panel Assails Trump’s Refusal To Explicitly Condemn Neo-Nazis UN Expert on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights to Visit United States in December

August 29, 2017 by
The University of Tampa has fired a visiting professor who posted a tweet Sunday suggesting the devastation of Hurricane Harvey is "instant karma" for Texas because it voted Republican. "We condemn the comments and the sentiment behind them, and understand the pain this irresponsible act has caused," university spokesman Eric Cardenas said in a statement Tuesday morning, after the school weathered an outpouring of online outrage. "As Floridians, we are well aware of the destruction and suffering associated with tropical weather." Other sociology faculty will take over Kenneth L. Storey's classes, Cardenas said. Meanwhile, a group that fights for academic freedom is investigating the matter. Kenneth L. Storey, a visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University of Tampa, drew condemnation from the university on Facebook for a tweet he posted blaming the devastation of Hurricane Harvey on support by Texas for the GOP. "Many universities seem to decide, 'Well, it's not worth the trouble of sticking up for our faculty members' rights,' and that's troubling," said Ari Cohn, an attorney with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "The University of Tampa's own policies say faculty members retain their rights to speak as private citizens, which is exactly what Ken Storey seems to have done." Kenneth L. Storey posted an apology on Twitter Monday for comments regarding Hurricane Harvey in Texas. A tweet thread containing those comments, as well as his profile photo, were removed. Storey, a visiting assistant professor, posted the tweet and two responses before removing the entire thread — as well as his profile photo — and issuing an apology on Monday. "I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday," reads a recent tweet from @klstorey. "I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly." Storey has not responded to requests for comment. The original post, captured by conservative websites Turning Point USA and Campus Reform before it was removed, read, "I dont believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt care about them." Following responses to his tweet, noting that good people live in Texas and that Florida also voted Republican, Storey issued responses including one that read, "Well, the good people there need to do more to stop the evil their state pushes. I'm only blaming those who support the GOP there." Monday evening, the university posted this reaction to its Facebook page: "The University of Tampa stands in solidarity with the people impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and our thoughts and prayers are with all involved. The comments made by Kenneth Storey were made via his private social media account. They were not made within his capacity as a faculty member, and they don't represent the University's views. The University of Tampa condemns these comments and the sentiment behind them." Still, a steady stream of comments posted to the school's Facebook page called for the university to fire Storey. Several students said his tweets gave them serious pause. For Neisha Gamble, a 20-year-old entrepreneurship major from Houston, the comments particularly stung. Gamble said she is still trying to get in touch with her family in the Allen Parkway area. "We're from the part where it flooded really bad," she said, sitting in the university's crowded Vaughn Center on the first, rainy week of the new semester. "That was really ignorant of him to say," she said. "Yes, he has free speech, but there are some things you should just keep to yourself." The university was right to let him go, she said. "There are drownings and killings happening. . . . Don't wish that upon anyone, and then send a fake apology out." Pulling an umbrella from her bag, Apollo Beach freshman Erin Hanson said Storey should have been reprimanded at the very least. "As a professor and having a leadership position, it's kind of his job to keep his opinions to himself," she said. His posts also came as a reminder to be careful online, she said. Freshman Sydney Milton, 18, said Storey's comments were out of line. "I don't understand where that comes from," Milton said. I don't know what would have made him think the GOP doesn't care about their state, as compared to any other state." Milton didn't think UT should take serious action against Storey but that he should take better care with his public remarks. "You have to remember that you're representing a university," she said. Patrick Holt, a junior, said he didn't believe the tweet when he first saw it. "I thought it was pretty messed up," Holt said. "Twitter's the area for free speech, and you can say what you want, but there's an ethical line." He thought Storey should keep his job but that "some course of action should be taken." According to his Linked-In social media page, Storey has worked as an adjunct professor of sociology at The University of Tampa and Hillsborough Community College and as a writer with Orlando Weekly. He has a master's degree in sociology from the University of Central Florida, the page says. On Monday, Storey also sent this statement to ABC Action News: "I apologize for the the tweets. My intention was never to offend anyone. This was a series of tweets taken out of context. I was referring to the GOP denial of climate change science and push to decrease funds from agencies that can help in a time like this. I hope all affected by the storm are safe and recover quickly. I also hope this helps the GOP realize the need to support climate change research and put in place better funding for agencies like NOAA and FEMA. "I've been clear with that through various tweets that followed the initial tweet. It is hard to express one's full thoughts in 140 characters and I realize that taken out of context some tweets may sound extremely off-putting. I never intended it to be that." source

August 26, 2017 by
New York voters will soon decide whether to authorize a constitutional convention to confront issues long mired in political gridlock, such as additional guarantees for abortion, repeal of the 2013 gun control law, measures to combat the influence of big-money campaign donors, improvements to mass transit in New York City and on Long Island, and anti-corruption measures. If voters call for a reboot of the highest law of New York, a constitutional convention also could take on popular structural proposals that usually don’t raise a peep in Albany. Those options include legislative term limits, eliminating the Senate or Assembly to reduce cost and partisan standoffs; curbs on the extensive power of governors in crafting state budgets; and banning outside jobs by lawmakers. The 1777 convention, which wrote the first state constitution, rejected an attempt to end slavery. Member's of New York's first constitutional convention assemble in front of the courthouse in Kingston on April 20 of that year to listen to the convention secretary as he read the new constitution to the public. “Politicians in office cannot or will not sufficiently regulate themselves,” said Gerald Benjamin, distinguished professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz. “Maybe we can find a better way at a constitutional convention.” Voters will make the decision Nov. 7 in a yes or no vote. If approved, months later three delegates will be elected from each of 63 State Senate districts statewide. Another 15 “at large” delegates will be elected from anywhere in the state for a total for 204. The delegates would draw a salary for months of public work that would begin in 2018. Their recommendations would then be subject to a referendum on an election day, probably in 2019, after a series of public hearings, speeches and advertising blitzes from all sides. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he supports a convention but only if delegates aren’t dominated by elected officials who could protect the status quo. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) opposed a constitutional convention. Supporters of a constitutional convention argue it is the only way to reform Albany’s ethical behavior and to reduce the influence of wealthy corporations and individuals on policymaking. Many opponents, however, fear that politicians and incumbents, who could become delegates, would hijack the citizens’ convention to unravel current protections in the constitution, such as the guarantee of pensions for teachers and other public workers and environmental protections. Another camp opposed to a convention fears that incumbent legislators would take control of it, costing taxpayers millions and making sure no substantive work to curb corruption is passed. The stakes are high. A constitutional convention in 1846 placed caps on borrowing as well as punished the bribery of public officials for the first time. In 1866, one created free public schools and gave African-American men who owned property the right to vote. In 1894, a convention established “forever wild” areas of the Adirondacks and Catskills and founded the State University of New York. The 1938 convention required the state to care for those who couldn’t care for themselves under “articles on care of the needy,” and banned discrimination based on “race, color or creed.” However, opponents also note that other conventions made far less progressive decisions. The 1777 convention, which wrote the first state constitution, rejected an attempt to end slavery. The 1801 convention weakened the governor’s power over appointments and spending and created a spoils system for the legislature that led to rampant corruption. The 1894 convention denied the vote to women. “We need bold, systemic change now that will take direct aim at the culture of corruption, dysfunction and cronyism that has brought shame to our state for decades,” said Bill Samuels, a veteran of New York political campaigns and founder of the New York People’s Convention group. Samuels’ People’s Convention group also supports non-ethics measures including full civil rights protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers, more funding for underperforming poor urban and rural schools, and the legalization of marijuana. Proponents see hope in the anger of voters who feel ignored by politics as usual that helped elect Donald Trump president, just as the Progressive Era fueled the 1915 convention and the Great Depression forced the 1938 convention. “To me, the most important thing of all is we have to have public financing of elections and we are not going to get it legislatively,” said Richard Ravitch, the former Democratic lieutenant governor who has played major historical roles in New York’s mass transit system, New York City’s fiscal crisis, and in health care reform. Other supporters also have policy goals. For example, the state Bar Association calls for restructuring the “byzantine” court system to make it easier for lawyers and clients to navigate as well as consolidating trial courts. The Committee for a Constitutional Convention, which includes good-government groups such as New York City-based Citizens Union, wants public financing of campaigns and restoring some power of self-governance to New York City, much of which was lost to Albany when the state bailed the city out of financial crisis in the 1970s. Ravitch said he understands the fears of opponents — for example, the concern of losing guaranteed pensions for public workers — but he doesn’t believe such elements of the current constitution are in serious danger. He and other supporters of a convention, such as Samuels, insist the risks are worth changing how Albany operates. Hal Peterson is one of the New Yorkers who has caught the constitutional convention fever. “Many of our elected officials are unlikely to rain on their own parade,” said Peterson, of Rockville Centre, a former corporate executive turned good-government advocate in retirement. He is trying to get legislators to commit to positions on reform issues and has developed a website (reformalbanynowregistry.com). His seven proposals include a hard limit on state borrowing; eliminating the “LLC loophole” that allows corporations to use limited liability companies to contribute to candidates and parties far above the corporate limit of $5,000; and term limits and “initiative and referendum,” which many other states have, to allow citizens to initiate referenda on issues not taken up by the legislature. “Can we afford to be indifferent? No!” Peterson said. Yet opponents warn that big special interests can play an outsized role in a constitutional convention. That concern led even staunch good-government advocates and reform politicians to oppose a vote on whether to hold a convention in 1997, which led to its defeat. The good-government advocates then feared their attempts to rein in corruption would not only be defeated by delegates dominated by state legislators, but more loopholes would be created along with less independent oversight. Today, however, the groups say the need to clean up Albany overwhelms their fear that ethics legislation could be further eroded. Opponents of the November referendum on whether to hold a convention say they fear political bosses, public worker unions and big-money donors to campaigns will seize the upper hand in selecting delegates and the agenda. That agenda could decimate unions, eliminate or devalue the state pension guarantee for public workers, or undo the “forever wild” designations in the Adirondacks and Catskills that prohibit development. The concern over drastic change has joined opponents on both sides of some issues. For example, the New Yorkers Against Corruption coalition fighting the convention includes Planned Parenthood and Right-to-Life groups, the state Conservative Party and the liberal Working Families Party and the progressive Humanists of Long Island; as well as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Network and conservative church groups. “There is no question a constitutional convention could do tremendous damage to the state of New York,” said state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) and a founding member of the Independent Democratic Conference. None of us can feel safe about a constitutional convention.” A key concern of labor unions and their advocates, such as Savino, is that the possible elimination of the state constitution’s guarantee — since the 1938 constitutional convention referendum — that public workers get a lucrative, tax-free pension that can’t be “diminished or impaired” for a worker who is vested. Local government leaders, however, blame some of the nation’s highest property taxes on this pension obligation. Construction unions also fear the constitution could strike down legislation that requires union-level wages and protections in all publicly funded construction sites, which has been a boon for unionized companies in landing big contracts. “We don’t need to rip up the NYS constitution and put everything workers care about at risk to amend the constitution,” states the Facebook posting by the New York State AFL-CIO labor organization. The group says “Albany insiders” will try to take away workers’ rights such as costly pension benefits and legally required union-level wages that must be paid on most publicly funded projects, which drives up costs for taxpayers. Opposition also comes from the other side of the political spectrum. “It’s a bad idea,” said state Conservative Party chairman Mike Long, who watched the 1967 convention closely and was unimpressed. “The establishment controls the whole convention.” He said, for example, late-term abortion without restrictions could be made the law of the land. “I believe the constitution has served us well.” Supporters say they need Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to use his bully pulpit. As a candidate in 2010, Cuomo said it was critical to create a “constitutional commission” through a governor’s executive order or the legislature to identify who could be delegates and the issues they would weigh. Neither Cuomo nor the legislature has done so. In June, Cuomo emphasized the drawbacks of a convention. “I said a convention is a good idea,” Cuomo told reporters. “I think the devil is in the details. Who are the delegates? What are the issues? . . . You have to elect delegates who are not currently elected officials.” Cuomo noted that legislators already have the political apparatus and know-how to collect nominating petitions in each congressional district to become delegates. That expertise and staffing could shut out the political novices and private citizens the constitutional convention is intended to attract. He said New Yorkers should vote for a constitutional convention in November, but only with “the proviso” that elected officials can’t be delegates. But Peter Galie, professor emeritus of political science at Canisius College, said he doesn’t believe a constitutional commission could legally bar any group of people, such as lawmakers, from running to become delegates. “Cuomo’s argument is a counsel of despair or an ostensible but not real reason for his opposition,” Galie told Newsday. Heastie said, “We should be very, very careful in exposing the constitution to the whims of someone from outside the state who could decide to spend millions of dollars to put forth a position.” Supporters estimate the cost of a convention at $60 million. Opponents estimate as much as $500 million. Flanagan noted the legislature can already propose individual constitutional amendments. “I’m comfortable with the way that works,” Flanagan said. Voters have approved more than 225 amendments proposed by the legislature since 1895, according to the League of Women Voters. “The legislature is opposed,” said Evan Davis, who supports a convention and had been counsel to former Gov. Mario Cuomo, “and it’s not hard to figure out why.” Voters, however, seem to like the idea. A poll in May found New York voters 62-22 percent supported a constitutional convention, said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College Research Institute poll. The support included two-thirds of Democrats, 55 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents. But support has already eroded in the face of media campaigns against a convention. In July, a Siena poll found 47 percent of voters supported a convention, although 67 percent of voters said they still haven’t heard enough about the issue. source Read More: New Yorkers to vote on constitutional convention in 2017 Can ballot placement prevent a constitutional convention? How the Rich Can Rip Away Our Rights  

August 26, 2017 by
Fun fact: August 26 is Women’s Equality Day. Not a fun fact: We’re observing this particular Women’s Equality Day at a time when women’s rights are in danger in some subtle, insidious ways. Nor is it just women; every marginalized group in this countfry is under threat. And on a day that we’re meant to be celebrating a great achievement and finding a path forward to achieve even more, we’re instead finding ourselves fighting to maintain ground we’ve already won. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images The U.S. Congress designated Aug. 26 as Women’s Equality Day in 1971 to commemorate the day in 1920 on which the 19th Amendment, which secured women the vote, was officially adopted. (It had previously been passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and ratified on Aug. 18, 1920.) Like the 15th Amendment, which was passed in 1870 and granted black men the vote, it’s a Big Effing Deal; after all, voting is what makes democracy run, and if everyone who lives in a democratic country does not have a voice in the process, then it’s not really a democracy. Indeed, even the passing of the 19th Amendment didn't guarantee everyone the vote; as the National Women's History Museum points out, black women were still often denied the vote due to state laws and vigilante practices until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The joint resolution from both branches of Congress declaring Women’s Equality Day acknowledged that women in the United States have routinely been treated as second-class citizens, that women have fought for equal rights, that women have achieved equal rights, and that women are to be “commended and supported in their organizations and activities.” An additional call to action from the Women’s Equality Day website, however, not only “recognizes the commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America won their right to vote,” but also considers the day “an opportunity to continue to work for equal rights for all citizens.” Because there’s still work to be done for all marginalized groups and people. What’s somewhat upsetting, though, is that we’re not just having to fight for rights that, absurdly, haven’t yet been achieved; we’re observing this Women’s Equality Day knowing that we’re deeply embroiled in a battle to defend the rights we already have. It seems absolutely unthinkable that we should have to fight to keep from losing rights we’ve already gained — and yet, here we are. Here are five ways women’s rights are currently in danger — but also, here are some ways to fight back. And we'll keep fighting, for as long as we have to, until there is no longer any need. On Aug. 16, a federal appeals court panel in Arkansas ruled that the state can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. Texas is also seeking Trump’s help to completely defund Planned Parenthood. In Iowa, Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding was stopped in May; by July, four of the state’s clinics had closed. The 2017 state budgets for Arizona, Kentucky, and South Carolina did not include Planned Parenthood or other clinics that offer reproductive health services. Why it matters: All of this has major implications for women’s health (and, really, everyone’s health). For many people, Planned Parenthood is the only affordable health care option anywhere near them. And without access to the services Planned Parenthood provides, some of the country’s most vulnerable populations — low-income women and women of color — suffer greatly. We’ve seen it happen in states like Wisconsin and Texas: STDs and rates of unplanned pregnancies rise; cancer screenings become difficult or impossible to access; and on, and on, and on. Many are concerned that individual states defunding Planned Parenthood will result in a snowball effect, with other states following in short order — which also continues to fuel the effort at the federal level. Reproductive health care is essential, not optional, and affordable health care is a right, not a privilege. But our access to it is threatened all the same. This Quote May Accurately Be Attributed To The President Of The United States Individual States Are Defunding Planned Parenthood Until recently, the idea that a quote like this could be accurately attributed to the President of the United States was outrageous. Yes, other presidents have done or said questionable things. No, not all prior presidents have been paragons of virtue (and, indeed, many were far from it). But the idea that we as a country could elect someone to the highest position of power in the country knowing that this is who they are was bananas… until now. And all of the work that we have done so far to dismantle rape culture — both on an ideological level and a legislative one — is in danger of being undone because of it. Why it matters: When rape culture is sitting in the White House, it excuses sexual assault. It reinforces the idea that “boys will be boys,” and that we all just need to allow that to be the case. It makes it OK for legislation under serious consideration to target sexual assault survivors. It denies us the right to bodily autonomy — to decide who touches us, and when, and how, and who does not put a finger anywhere near us. It teaches people that they are entitled to other people’s bodies — to do whatever they want with other people’s bodies. None of this is OK. The White House Pay Gap Is Growing Under The Current Administration Source:Pixabay/Pexels In Trump’s White House, the gender pay gap between staffers has tripled in the months since he took office, according to the Washington Post; women now tend to earn around 63.2 cents to each dollar men make. It’s a gap of 37 percent — which is also more than double the national rate (about 17 percent). Why it matters: It’s true that the White House isn’t the entire country — but the implications of what it means for the Commander-in-Chief’s staffers not only to have such a terrible gender-based wage gap, but for that gap to be growing (and at such a shocking rate, at that) are huge. It’s hard to envision an administration where this is the norm making efforts to shrink, let alone eliminate, the gender wage gap nationally — and although Pew Research Center data from 2015 indicated that the gap was narrowing at the time, we might be looking at a very different story once 2017’s numbers are available. Indeed, we’ve already seen things starting to take a turn for the worse: Just prior to Equal Pay Day, Trump rolled back the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, which, as Bustle’s Joseph D. Lyons noted in April, contained essential protections for working women. All this, by the way, is even without considering the many other issues affecting the wage gap, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and race — also not issues the administration has shown much interest in fighting. Everyone deserves equal pay for equal work. Period. Anti-“Voter Fraud” Measures Are Actually Suppressing Voters 14 states issued measures ostensibly meant to combat voter fraud prior to the 2016 election. Earlier this year, Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity requested all states to send in their voter registration data, also ostensibly to help combat voter fraud. Trouble is, most of these measures aren't actually fighting voter fraud; indeed, in many cases, they're actually resulting in voter suppression. In May, for example, North Carolina was found by the Supreme Court to have gerrymandered districts to suppress black votes. Why it matters: Most of the voter suppression that’s occurring due to things like gerrymandering (as is the case with North Carolina) is affecting low-income communities and people of color. Indeed, study published this year found that voter ID laws do “have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of Hispanics, Blacks, and mixed-race Americans in primaries and general elections.” The irony of this being the case as we observe Women’s Equality Day — which, as a reminder, commemorates the passage of an amendment that made the vote a constitutional right for people who hadn't previously had it — is terrible. And it has been terrible for a long time. There is arguably no more sacred right in a democracy than the right to vote — to have your voice count when it comes to selecting the people who will represent you in the government.  To threaten that right is probably the most un-American thing there is. This Is What It Looks Like When Decisions Are Made About Women’s Bodies Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images On Jan. 23, 2017, Trump reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which prohibits the U.S. government from giving foreign assistance to nongovernmental organizations which “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” It’s a policy that affects pretty much everyone with a uterus, many of whom are women. Notice what the room looks like here. I see a lot of men. White, wealthy, privileged cisgender men who do not have uteruses, who cannot get pregnant. Why it matters: These are the folks who are calling the shots when it comes to women’s bodies. Women are being denied the right to determine what they do with their own bodies, despite the fact that abortion is both safe and legal. But with abortion rights being chipped away at by rooms full of men like these, there's a concern that our access to the procedure will be eliminated without our say so. Just look at what happened in Texas recently. The fear is not unfounded. So: We fight. We call our representatives. We donate time, money, or skills where we can. We show up for each other. We operate on both the large and the small scale. And together, we make a difference. source