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Paul Wolfowitz Is So Concerned With Trump He May Vote For Clinton

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-08-27 11:51

Paul Wolfowitz, who served as deputy secretary of defense under President George W. Bush and is often referred to as the architect of the Iraq War, says he may vote for Hillary Clinton.

Wolfowitz told the German newspaper Der Spiegel he might vote for the Democratic nominee because of the threat Donald Trump poses to U.S. security.

“The only way you can be comfortable about Trump’s foreign policy, is to think he doesn’t really mean anything he says. That’s a pretty uncomfortable place to be in,” he said. “Our security depends on having good relationships with our allies. Trump mainly shows contempt for them. And he seems to be unconcerned about the Russian aggression in Ukraine. By doing this he tells them that they can go ahead and do what they are doing. That is dangerous.”

“I wish there were somebody I could be comfortable voting for. I might have to vote for Hillary Clinton, even though I have big reservations about her,” he added.

Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have spoken warmly of each other in public. Last month, Trump urged Russia to hack Clinton’s email, and has suggested he would not automatically defend members of NATO ― something that could invite aggression from Russia.

Paul Manafort, the former chair of Trump’s campaign, also resigned last week after the Associated Press reported on his work on behalf of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.

Wolfowitz is part of a number of Republicans who have refused to back Trump. It’s a list that includes former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times last month, Wolfowitz said America’s credibility in the world would be undermined if Trump was elected.

“It’s the fact that our friends aren’t going to trust us and our enemies aren’t going to fear us,” he said.

Wolfowitz, who served as a foreign policy adviser on the presidential campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said in 2003 that the United States would be greeted as liberators in Iraq.

Trump has attacked Clinton for voting to support the Iraq war in 2002 and claimed he was against it. Trump’s claim is false ― he did support the invasion.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Trump Or The Trouble With Hating

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-08-27 11:51
Trump hate. I don't like these feelings. I don't want these feelings. I have spent a long lifetime learning - or trying to learn - forgiveness. It is the most difficult but the most desirable of emotions - for to forgive not only lifts the burden of anger and hatred from the "forgiver" but it restores to the "forgiven" the humanity that we have denied him or her, even it he or she does not deserve it. Forgiveness is not about the deserving - it it were they would be no need to forgive. All this is easier said than done. I have been fortunate in not feeling hate for many people - those who have done me some real or perceived injury I prefer to remove from my life by simply saying "gone" - to be forgotten - out of the address book and out of my life. But the antipathy that I feel for Donald Trump awakens my boyhood feelings about Barkin - the kid who tried to bully me - and pretty much succeeded - at at summer camp in Maine (little did he know until too late that he was messing with the wrong kid - Sherman the ten year old heartless avenger - lacking a cape and magical powers but possessing the means to be truly mean) and in a greater sense there was my hatred for all the fascist leaders who controlled the Europe of my youth and who murdered millions. That was serious hatred, not to be confused with Barkin.

Since I was a kid during WW2 I imagine it was a hereditary hatred that my anti-fascist parents had passed on to me. And Hitler and his henchmen gave us the faces we needed to hate.

When I see a photo of Trump I am reminded of the legion of dictators, racists, and bad guys who peopled the newsreels of my boyhood days - all of them the recipients of my fear and loathing - and I had hoped never to feel this way again. Hate is that genie in the bottle - hard to lure back and cork up again once you have allowed it to escape. So in order to dampen the rage I feel when I listen to Trump's exploitation of hatred on TV, I go to the very people whom he is vilifying and instead of hating him I try to fill my psyche with love for them. Doesn't work. It is easier to hate one man than to love an entire group - we can only feel real emotion towards the individual - we can wish to protect the maligned group - but love? that is harder - so I keep stumbling back to rage at Trump, who has so cruelly and wantonly destroyed my life's equilibrium and threatens my world.

If the polls are right he will be soundly defeated come November. But I also hope to defeat the disgust and contempt I feel for this man - one who has endangered not only the country we share but the families we love. For nothing good can flow from him - and so I find myself hating Trump for many reasons - his bigotry - his exploitation of the ignorant - his greed for money and power - but I think I hate him most for his making me hate him. Thank God the holidays that celebrate love come in December, and I hope they arrive with an antidote for Trump hatred. With any luck they will help to wash away the hatred that Trump has unleashed. But the truth is I don't just want him defeated - I want him humiliated - living in exile in his golden palace at Mar-a-glow or whatever they call that pile on pretension in Palm Beach - let it be this Napoleon's Elba, And let me go back to the business of exiling hate - while loving and enjoying the love of those who surround my life.

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Why Colin Kaepernick Refused To Stand For The National Anthem Before A 49ers Preseason Game

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-08-27 11:14

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem before the team’s Friday night preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, and on Saturday, he explained why.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL.com’s Steve Wyche. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The protest makes Kaepernick the latest athlete to use his platform to call attention to problems facing African-Americans across the country, particularly the issue of police killings. Four NBA stars ― Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul ― called attention to the issue in an on-stage speech at the ESPY Awards in July. Anthony has also marched in protests in Baltimore; and Wade and James, along with their then-Miami Heat teammates, donned hoodies to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013.

Players from three WNBA teams wore shirts that bore the “Black Lives Matter” slogan during pre-game warmups in July. And during previous seasons, an assortment of NFL and NBA players have warmed up in T-shirts honoring African-Americans killed by police, and spoken out against police brutality after their games.

Kaepernick did not tell the 49ers of his plans not to stand for the anthem. He also sat through the song during a previous preseason game.

“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” Kaepernick told NFL.com. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the anthem is similar to a protest from former Denver Nuggets player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, whose choice to sit down through the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before NBA games in 1996 blew up into a nationwide controversy. Abdul-Rauf, a converted Muslim, eventually served a one-game suspension before striking a compromise with the NBA that required him to stand but allowed him to bow his head in prayer during the anthem. The flag, Abdul-Rauf said then, was “a symbol of tyranny, of oppression.”

The Nuggets traded Abdul-Rauf after the 1996 season, and his career never rebounded from the controversy

The 49ers said that they respected Kaepernick’s decision to exercise his rights of expression.

“The National Anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony,” the team said in a statement, according to NFL.com. “It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

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Donald Trump Makes Another Tragedy All About Him

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-08-27 10:42

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump exploited the death of a black mother in Chicago on Friday, saying it was a clear example of why African-Americans should vote for him.

Nykea Aldridge, the cousin of Chicago Bulls player Dwyane Wade and a mother of four, was killed on Friday as she pushed a baby in a stroller. Aldridge was not the intended target. Wade tweeted about his cousin’s death on Friday, calling  for an end to “senseless gun violence.”

Less than 24 hours later, Trump was exploiting Aldridge’s death in a tweet in which he misspelled Wade’s first name. Trump later deleted the tweet and posted another, correcting the spelling of Wade’s name.

Dwyane Wade's cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2016

Several hours after his initial tweet, Trump tweeted his condolences to Wade and his family.

My condolences to Dwyane Wade and his family, on the loss of Nykea Aldridge. They are in my thoughts and prayers.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2016

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released at the beginning of August showed Hillary Clinton led Trump among African-Americans 91 to 1 percent.

Recently, he has tried to appeal to African-Americans by claiming their communities had gotten so bad they have nothing to lose by voting for him. African-Americans have said that Trump’s description of their lives isn’t accurate.

Trump tweeted a similar boast after a deadly shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub, where gunman Omar Mateen killed 49 people, saying it showed his warnings about terrorism were correct.

In an interview with Bill O’Reilly on Monday, Trump claimed to have met with a top Chicago police officer who told him he could stop Chicago crime in a week. A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said no senior member of the department met with Trump or anyone from his campaign.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Inside The 2016 Fight For The White Working Class

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-08-27 08:21

WICKLIFFE, Ohio ― Joshua Lewis is knocking at a front door when the homeowner pulls into the driveway in a red Toyota pickup truck. Out steps Craig. Craig is fresh off from work, and he’s just the voter Lewis is looking for.

Lewis has a question for Craig: If he had to vote in the presidential election tomorrow, whom would he choose ― Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

“I would vote for Trump,” says Craig.

It’s not the answer Lewis was hoping to hear. But it’s the reason he’s been knocking on doors in the Cleveland suburbs for months on end, asking people to explain what matters most to them in 2016.

“I was a Democrat all the way up to this election,” Craig explains. “We need a change.”

“Smart change is better change,” Lewis counters. “A lot of what he’s saying is not only disturbing, but incorrect.”

“Look, I don’t think he’s the perfect candidate,” Craig goes on. “But I don’t think she can be trusted. We need integrity.”

Lewis and Craig find some common ground in their five-minute chat in the driveway ― both believe trade deals like NAFTA have been bad for American workers ― before Craig gives Lewis his email and phone number, so Lewis can follow up with him before the election. Craig is still leaning toward Trump.

“There are some people who say they’ve been Democrats all their lives, but a lack of progress has driven them the other way,” Lewis says after his discussion with Craig. “We have to meet them on their level.”

Lewis is a canvasser for Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO union federation. The AFL-CIO created the group in 2003 to make inroads with non-union workers at a time when unions are shrinking. Working America has campaigned to pass Obamacare, raise the minimum wage and stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Right now, it’s all-in against Trump. The group says it has 150 paid, full-time canvassers hitting the pavement hard in a handful of swing states, and as election day nears, that staff will ramp up to 500.

Working America’s sweet spot is the same as Trump’s ― working-class, mostly white, former industrial strongholds. Though the vast majority of its support used to come from the AFL-CIO, Working America now pulls much of its funding from foundations and liberal donors, as well as members’ voluntary dues.

On a recent evening, Lewis was canvassing in Wickliffe, Ohio, the blue-collar Lake County town where he grew up outside Cleveland. Wickliffe, which went for Obama in 2012, is 93 percent white (Lewis is African-American), and has a median household income of $48,000, according to census data. It’s just the sort of Rust Belt area that pundits point to when they say Trump could potentially redraw the electoral map with his nationalist, anti-trade message, if he can get his campaign in order.

The Cleveland area’s been hurt by the loss of manufacturing jobs. They’re looking for answers.
Joshua Lewis

“There are folks who like Trump because his promises are appealing to them,” says Lewis. “A lot of them are concerned with the lack of good-paying jobs, and they think someone from the outside can come in and make those changes. But Trump doesn’t have a plan.”

The canvassing by Working America illustrates one of Clinton’s many advantages in the election. The former secretary of state has vastly outraised Trump throughout the campaign, and she is hammering her opponent with TV ads in battleground states like Ohio. But beyond her own campaign, groups like Working America are already running an ancillary ground game on Clinton’s behalf.

A pillar of the Democratic base, the AFL-CIO and major national unions have uniformly endorsed Clinton ― despite Trump’s proclamations that he is the candidate for union members ― and will run get-out-the-vote operations as the election nears.

Working America is particularly invested in the battleground state of Ohio, which Trump will likely need to win if he’s to prevail in November. As of the latest polling, Clinton probably holds a very slight lead in Ohio. Working America has 80 canvassers based in the state. Though it’s now ramping up, the Trump campaign had just 82 staffers nationwide in the month of July. (Clinton, by contrast, had 705.) Come October, Working America’s hopes to have 200 bodies in Ohio.

The Ohio staff includes Lewis, whose knuckles are smudged with white paint from knocking on 70 doors a day. (His goal is 40 conversations per shift.) He quit his job as an account manager to join Working America last year. Raised by grandparents who were union members, he wanted to campaign for labor-friendly policies and candidates. Now he finds himself interrupting people’s dinners to hear how they feel about Trump.

“The Cleveland area’s been hurt by the loss of manufacturing jobs,” he says. “A lot of people are hurting, and they’re looking for answers.”

Voters like Craig are exactly who Lewis and his colleagues want to reach. Craig is not wearing a “Hillary for Prison” T-shirt. He does not appear to be a white nationalist. Hell, he typically votes Democratic. Craig is just another guy who thinks the cost of living is too high and wages are too low. And like a lot of voters, he says he has trust issues with the Democratic nominee.

“We’re up against years and years of what people have been hearing on television,” Lewis says.

As one would expect from the favorability polling, Lewis’ Wicliffe canvass turns up plenty of distaste for the Democratic nominee, some of it startling: “I don’t care for her.” “I don’t believe in her.” “I think she’s a liar.” “She’s a murderer.” Sometimes his goal is simply to warm someone to the idea of Clinton being president. “It’s tough to start out in a hole where you’re explaining that she wasn’t indicted,” he says.

On his nightly canvass, Lewis is aiming for what he calls pivots. There are two kinds. The half-pivot is when you steer an undecided voter toward Clinton’s side of the line. The full pivot is when you take a Trump supporter and flip him or her to Clinton. Not surprisingly, full pivots are much more elusive. The day before he met Craig, Lewis says he pulled off a rare feat ― half-pivoting a libertarian.

His proudest pivot came in Brunswick, Ohio, south of Cleveland. He was speaking to a single mother who said she had voted for Obama but now supported Trump. Her biggest concern was education. Lewis told her Trump has floated the idea of eliminating the Department of Education (true). By the time he stepped off the front stoop, the woman said she planned on voting for Clinton.

Before he can sway someone, Lewis needs them to explain what’s important to them going into the election.

“We’re holding up a mirror and letting them talk,” he says. “I just try to plant a seed. Give them a chance to verbalize their thoughts on the election and the working class. I want to have a polite talk with the facts, try to have people open up and have a conversation.”

Working America was one of the first groups to document Trump’s potential appeal in the Rust Belt in a general election. Back in the winter ― when most pundits and odds-makers were still writing Trump off in the GOP primary ― canvassers like Lewis were talking with people in Pittsburgh and Cleveland on their front porches, hearing their thoughts and concerns. They called it the “front porch focus group.”

They concluded that, out of the entire cluttered field of Republicans and Democrats, Trump was the single most popular candidate with the hundreds of people they spoke to. The group issued a splashy report essentially sounding the alarm: “Key white working-class voters have not made up their minds yet in the 2016 presidential race, but of those who have, Donald Trump is the strongest choice.” Once Working America endorsed Clinton, the group began actively campaigning against Trump.

Near the end of his night canvassing in Wickliffe, Lewis knocks on the door of a 34-year-old mother who’s never voted before. She recently registered to vote, after growing concerned about a plan to consolidate local schools. Lewis asks her a simple question that she clearly doesn’t get asked often: What’s important to her and her family right now?

“Better wages would be nice,” she says after a long pause. “Anything more than I’m making right now.”

This will be the first time she ever casts a ballot for president. She was jazzed about it, until the candidates were decided. “Honestly, I don’t care for either one,” she says.

Lewis leaves after a five-minute chat on her steps, the undecided voter still undecided. But all in all, Lewis considers the talk a success.

“We’re letting people flesh out their own stories,” he says. “And it pumps me up when I’m at a door and someone’s willing to listen.”

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One Man’s Quest To Document The Highways That Tore His City Apart

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-08-27 08:19

The Interstate Highway System, ushered in by President Dwight D. Eisenhower 60 years ago, was heralded as a groundbreaking public works project that connected the country like never before. But those 47,000 miles of federally funded pavement also decimated urban centers.

Photographer Michael DeFilippo has spent the last five months documenting freeways in his city of St. Louis. He completed the series this week, tied to the 60th anniversary, and ahead of his own 60th birthday Friday.

He says about half of the city’s neighborhoods are bordered or intersected by an interstate.  

“I wanted to show the unintended consequences and impact of the highway on a very beautiful and vibrant city,” he told The Huffington Post in an email.

DeFilippo, who mostly gets around by bike, got closer to the high-speed streets than most people do when they’re not driving. 

“I spent some time on the shoulders of busy roads, under highway overpasses, walking up and down access ramps at interchanges,” he said.

The experience reminded him of a 2011 assignment photographing a tornado in Joplin, Missouri.

“While standing on the edge of I-55 or I-44, looking down a barren ribbon of concrete with residential neighborhoods on both sides reminded me of Joplin after the tornado, except the cars on the Interstate were not stacked on top of each other,” he told HuffPost.

DeFilippo’s photos aren’t filled with decay, nor do they seem particularly grim at first glance. Many feature historic buildings and city landmarks under bright blue skies. But the freeways are still always present, and there are moments of dark humor: In one photo, a trick of perspective makes it look like cars on a flatbed trailer are driving in midair through houses. In another, a truck whisks a mobile home down the freeway juxtaposed with an abandoned building in the background. 

As in many cities, residents left St. Louis in droves in the second half of last century, cutting the population in half since 1970.

With no people besides the ones hidden in their cars, DeFilippo’s images are a reminder of how freeways helped empty out cities, displacing residents and allowing for suburban sprawl. (In past projects, he’s shown a more dynamic side of St. Louis.)

Urban planners used to consider freeway construction as a tool to cure city ills and clear “slums” ― overwhelmingly black neighborhoods ― Alana Semuels writes in The Atlantic. Communities were razed to make way for new roadways in cities across the country, from Detroit to Syracuse. Highways, along with housing restrictions that kept black residents out of the suburbs, fueled segregation and poverty, according to Semuels.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced an initiative earlier this year to push transit infrastructure that is more inclusive and not solely focused on cars.

The shift is shaped by Foxx’s experience growing up. His grandparents’ house in Charlotte, North Carolina, was just a few blocks from two interstates walled off by fences, according to news site Governing.

“My neighborhood had one way in and one way out, and that was a choice,” Foxx said in January.

More and more, urban planners and local officials are promoting walking, biking and mass transit. Making cities safe and accessible for pedestrians benefits the environment, local economies and residents’ health. 

Some cities have put that vision to work by actually tearing up freeways. One of the earliest projects is in Portland, which closed Harbor Drive in the 1970s and replaced it with a waterfront park.  

Others have “capped” them with pedestrian-friendly overpasses. One of these projects is in St. Louis, a park over I-44 that links the Gateway Arch with the rest of downtown.

DeFilippo’s series ends with a photo of that connector. 

It’s “a start toward undoing some of the damage done to Saint Louis by this highway system,” he said.

See more of DeFilippo’s photos below and in the full series on his site.


Kate Abbey-Lambertz covers sustainable cities, housing and inequality. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.   


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Ghassan's Prediction And The Emerging New Palestinian Reality

Huffingon Post Politics - Sat, 2016-08-27 07:18
During the past year, I've had the pleasure of receiving visits from Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi, and most recently Basel Ghattas--as they passed through Washington. All are Palestinian citizens of Israel. And all are Members of the Israeli Knesset, part of the Joint Arab List that won a record 13 seats in the last Israeli election. It was a delight to sit with them and learn from them not only about the difficulties they face, but the progress they have made.  

I have written about how I first became attached to the Arab community in Israel. It was the insightful Palestinian novelist, Ghassan Kanafani who caused me to divert my doctoral dissertation research from the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to the Palestinian Arabs who remained in their homes after Israel was created in 1948. He gave me two reasons. While much had already been written about the refugees, there was an absence of good literature about the Palestinians "inside" and, he said, they are the most promising component group of the Palestinian people since they have been forged like steel in the hearth of Israel. Facing enormous difficulties, they have developed a uniquely progressive identity and, he believed, the day would come when they would be in a position to provide real visionary leadership for the entire Palestinian people.  

My meetings with Odeh, Tibi, and Ghattas have given me the sense that Ghassan may have been right. These are remarkable individuals, part of a larger movement that has faced down the increasingly repressive, ultra-nationalist Israeli government while defending their rights and securing their political role.

For the first three decades, the Arabs in Israel couldn't form political parties or join unions (these were reserved for Zionists or Jews). They lived under a draconian and discriminatory legal system. They lost their lands to widespread confiscation. The Israeli educational system forced them to study Hebrew and Jewish history instead of their own language and history. And those who resisted, were imprisoned or forcibly expelled from the country.

Like other civil rights movements, these Palestinian citizens of Israel used every available opening to win their rights, facing down arrests, expulsions, and lethal violence. While tremendous problems remain, Palestinian citizens in Israel now form political parties, join unions, and teach their language and history. They still face systemic racism in housing, employment, education, allocation of the state's budget, and many other areas--and yet they have built and sustained a fighting force that continues to press their demands for justice and equality.  

In creating their Joint List, the Palestinian citizens of Israel have forged a remarkable national unity bringing together diverse political currents: nationalists, traditionalists, and progressives--Muslims and Christians, alike. Netanyahu's far-right governing coalition has stepped up its assault on the Arab community in an effort to divide them and break their resolve. Israel has created a fake new identity for Christians--in an effort to divide the Arabs on the basis of religion. They have charged some Arab Knesset Members with "incitement" for advocating on behalf of their Palestinian brethren living under the suffocating economic embargo imposed on Gaza. Israel has passed laws prohibiting Arabs and progressive Jews from supporting the non-violent boycott movement protesting Israel's settlement policy and making it more difficult for them to receive grants from the EU to promote democracy and human rights. None of these repressive measures have broken their resolve or unity.

In addition to my earlier studies, I have, in recent years, polled the Palestinian Arab citizens in Israel, as well as the Palestinians living under occupation and those in exile. Of all of the component parts of the Palestinian people, the Arabs in Israel are the most forward looking and the most committed to achieving justice for the entire Palestinian people. And as I have watched Odeh, Tibi, and Ghattas in action, I have been impressed by their political savvy. Unlike the divided and visionless leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the members of the Joint list have vision, a sound political sense of tactics and strategy, and a demonstrated ability to connect with the people they serve. While it is correct to acknowledge that Israel has done everything it could to weaken, punish, discredit, divide, and tie-in-knots the Palestinian leadership under occupation, the Israelis have been no less harsh in the treatment meted out to their own Palestinian citizenry. In this context, it is significant to note that while the efforts of several Arab states have failed, it is fallen on the shoulders of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel (the collective leadership of the Arab community in Israel) to launch an initiative to bring about reconciliation between the Palestinian factions of Fateh and Hamas.

I have just finished reading a compelling Haaretz article "Stop with the Nonsense that Palestinians Are a Minority In Israel". The writer Gideon Levy argues that since Israel has refused to separate from the occupied territories and continues to entrench its settler colonies deeper into the heart of the West Bank and the Arab areas of what they call "Greater Jerusalem", the "era of the two state solution [is drawing] to a close" and has been replaced by a de facto "bi-national state" in which the numbers of Jews and Arabs are roughly equal. In this new reality, Arabs are not a minority, they are half of the population.  

If this is to remain the case, and I see no evidence that the Netanyahu government will change direction or that any outside power will compel them to do so, then the Palestinian struggle will inevitably be transformed from one demanding independence into a movement demanding equal rights. This will merely be an extension of the fight that the "inside" Palestinians have been waging for seven decades. If this is to be the case, we may well see the day when the Palestinian citizens of Israel will emerge, as Kanafani predicted, as the new leadership of a unified Palestinian community fighting for justice and equality.

Follow @jjz1600 for more.  

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Donald Trump's Black Voter Delusion

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 23:42
Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University and the author of the book Republicans and the Black Vote. His next book, More than Just Partisanship: Conservatism and Black Voter Suppression will be published next year by New York University Press.

Donald Trump recently ramped up his Black voter outreach in the wake of poll after poll showing him failing to overcome a historically weak Democratic nominee in his bid for the White House. His Black outreach is equal parts condescension and bluster. He talked down to Black voters recently pointing out, inaccurately and out of context, that "you're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth are unemployed" before asking "What do you have to lose?" He also stated that he would get 95% of Black votes in his reelection campaign. Taken separately, these and other statements can charitably be said represent a deep misunderstanding of Black voters and Black life in America. Collectively, these statements reflect a deep delusion on the part of a candidate who has a history of race baiting.

Like most Republican nominees during the last eight decades, Trump has plenty of room for improvement. Credible recent polls show him with one or two percent support among Black voters. This is astonishingly low even among Republican nominees. If he ends up with two percent in November, then he would get half of what the 2008 nominee, John McCain, received in the historic election of Americas first Black President.

In the 22 presidential elections since 1936, for which even rudimentary polling was conducted, no Republican nominee has won a majority of Black votes. Only one, Thomas Dewey in 1944, received 40 percent, the high water mark in more than 75 years of presidential campaigns. Only three, Wendell Willkie, Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, and Richard Nixon in 1960, got between 30 and 39 percent. More recent Republican nominees have done consistently worse. In the last 10 elections, only Ronald Reagan in 1980 and Bob Dole in 1996 won 12 percent of the Black vote. Even setting aside the historic Barack Obama-induced headwinds facing John McCain in 2008 (four percent) and Mitt Romney in 2012 (six percent), GOP nominees since 1968 have largely been in the 10 to 15 percent range among African Americans. Trump is on the verge of a historically bad performance. After all, even Barry Goldwater won six percent of the Black vote in a treacherous 1964 campaign.

Trump's "outreach" assumes that a few events in which he cynically mentions Black people is all that will be necessary to win over large numbers of African Americans to his cause. This strategy only works if Black voters are suddenly overtaken by amnesia and forget the many ways in which he has previously treated Black people. Unfortunately for Trump, there is a decades-long track record to show who he really is. He took out a full-page newspaper ad in April 1989 calling for a return of the death penalty in the wake of the infamous "Central Park 5." The ad poured rhetorical gasoline on the anger many Whites felt over the five Black kids, the oldest of whom was 16, who were arrested for brutally beating and raping a White woman. They confessed under duress and without counsel present. Years later someone else confessed to the crime. DNA at the crime scene confirmed his guilt and the innocence of the falsely convicted. Trump has never apologized or acknowledged his inflammatory rhetoric during this period.

He joined up with racists when he became the most prominent among the far right birthers who repeatedly alleged that President Obama was not born in the United States. He elevated his profile among White racial conservatives by using his broad platform to traffic the false claims. Ignoring the evidence of Obama's Hawaiian birth, he claimed that his investigators found that he was not born in the United States. He never produced evidence, just headlines. When proven false, rather than acknowledge his wrongness, he talked about the "service" he provided by keeping the issue in the news. Even now he cannot bring himself to acknowledge that he was wrong on all the facts about Obama's birthplace.

The birth certificate foolishness, moreso than anything else he has said or done during the campaign, has made him radioactive in the Black community. Even Black people who are lukewarm to Obama understand the racist undercurrent of birtherism. They also understand that Trump led the charge in stoking the flames of birtherism. Questioning the nationality of an obviously native-born American, after a 2008 campaign that would have been stillborn if he were ineligible to serve, was Trump's attempt to deligitimize the first Black President. Black people understood that then and remember it now.

His campaign is replete with other racial missteps and dog whistles. Since announcing his presidential bid, he has consistently tweeted or retweeted White supremacist conspiracy theories, erroneous statistics regarding Black crime, and seemingly encouraged the physical attacking of Black protestors at his rallies. Let's also remember that David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has repeatedly spoken very highly of Trump. Duke cited Trump as the inspiration for his decision to run for the U.S. Senate this year.

Any campaign that is serious about outreach to African Americans would at least do the following. First, it would include African Americans in significant decision making campaign positions. Second, it would advance policy proposals that reflect respect for and understanding of Black life. Third, it would constantly speak with an inspirational voice that encourages not demonizes. Fourth, it would advertise in Black media outlets and contract with Black vendors. More importantly than all this, serious outreach would be timely, not something seemingly done as an afterthought. Trump has failed on all counts. He has no significant African Americans in serious positions (No, Omorosa doesn't count!). He has made no policy proposals that show an understanding of Black issues. A speech given barely more than three months before the election is not timely. There has been no inspirational rhetoric and no evidence of significant Black media or vendor engagement.

Donald Trump won the Republican nomination by swimming in the rotten river of racial stereotypes and invective. Those now talking about his pivot to a more presidential general election mode would do well to remember that Trump has been around. And Black people know him well enough that a few speeches here and there won't change anyone's mind.

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U.S. And Russia Fail To Close Deal On Ending Violence In Syria

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 22:34

The United States and Russia failed on Friday to reach a breakthrough deal on military cooperation and a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria, saying they still have issues to resolve before an agreement could be announced.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, addressing a joint news conference after more than nine hours of off-and-on talks in Geneva, said teams from both sides would try to finalize details in coming days in the Swiss city.

Kerry said the talks with Lavrov had “achieved clarity on the path forward” but together they offered few details on how they planned to renew a February cessation of hostilities and improve humanitarian assistance.

“We don’t want to have a deal for the sake of the deal,” Kerry said. “We want to have something done that is effective and that works for the people of Syria, that makes the region more stable and secure, and that brings us to the table here in Geneva to find a political solution.”

The talks have been complicated since initial meetings in July by new government attacks on opposition groups, and a significant offensive in the southern part of the divided city of Aleppo led by opposition fighters intermingled with the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate also seeking to topple Russian-backed President Bashar al-Assad.

In the days ahead the technical teams, which include U.S. and Russian military and intelligence experts, will try to figure out ways to separate the opposition groups, backed by the United States and Gulf Arab countries, from the jihadis.

It was unclear after Friday’s meetings whether outstanding issues could all be resolved between Moscow and Washington, which back opposing parties in the Syrian conflict. The United States has insisted that the Syrian air force, which has dropped barrel bombs and chlorine on residential areas, be grounded but Lavrov said on Friday that was not the goal.

Assad’s future is not part of the current talks. Instead, discussions are focused on finding an effective and lasting solution to end the violence, which would open negotiations on a political transition in Syria.

“If the remaining details can be completed, we believe we will be able to address the two primary challenges to the cessation of hostilities - the regime violations and the increasing influence of the al-Nusra Front,” Kerry said.

Kerry believes the plan is the best chance to limit fighting that is driving thousands of Syrians into exile in Europe and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching tens of thousands more.

The talks came as opposition groups effectively surrendered the Damascus suburb of Daraya to the government after a grueling four-year siege.

Kerry said the Syrian regime had “forced the surrender” of Daraya in contravention of the February cessation of hostilities agreement, but Lavrov said the local accord was an “example” that should be “replicated”.

The Russian foreign minister said another besieged area was “interested in such an operation with mediation of the Russian Federation.” He did not name the area.

Residents and insurgents in Daraya began to leave the besieged area where civilians have been trapped since 2012 and the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed concern for their safety.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Barrington in Beirut and Firas Makdesi and Kinda Makieh in Damascus; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Tom Brown)

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Climate-Denying Weather Channel Founder Frets About A Hillary Clinton Victory

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 20:57

Lingering U.S. political debate over whether human activity is causing climate change could be settled once and for all by the 2016 presidential election, according to John Coleman, a climate change denier who co-founded The Weather Channel. 

Coleman, a retired TV weatherman credited with persuading a communications magnate to start The Weather Channel in 1981, said during an interview with a likeminded skeptic on website Climate Depot on Wednesday that a November victory by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton may usher in years of government anti-pollution regulations and would further marginalize climate deniers.

“This election may be a tipping point in the climate debate,” said Coleman, who has called climate change “a myth.” Climate Depot promotes climate change denial.  

The only scientific debate about climate change is what to do about it. An overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe human activity is causing global warming.

The Obama administration has pushed anti-pollution policies that Coleman claimed are unnecessary and too expensive, including the 2015 Paris climate accord that requires 195 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Environmental Protection Agency regulations that would force coal power plants to cut emissions. The EPA regulation is on hold after a Supreme Court ruling.

“If the next president does not overturn these regulations, U.S. citizens will suffer the consequences as energy prices soar over the next eight years,” Coleman said.

Clinton has set an ambitious environmental agenda, including a promise to power every home with renewable energy by 2027.

Like many of his positions, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s view of climate change is tough to pin down, though he has called it a “hoax.”

Coleman, who has no formal training in climate science, said he believes the planet is experiencing a natural cycle of heating up. Meteorologists have criticized Coleman’s views while The Weather Channel itself has said that evidence shows global warming is a manmade phenomenon.

Without a hint of irony, Coleman lamented to Climate Depot that politics, rather than scientific evidence, is driving the debate. 

“Climate change, a scientific issue, has now totally become a political issue,” he said. “As a result, we skeptical climate scientists are perhaps about to be handed a major defeat in the climate debate.”  

The view of Coleman, who is skeptical but is not a climate scientist, conflicts with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found in 2013 with 95 percent certainty that humans have caused global warming over the past 60 years by doing things like burning coal and other fossil fuels. A joint report in 2014 from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society also found that humans were the cause. A 2015 review of 4,014 climate change papers published by scientists found that 97.2 percent of the articles blamed mankind for contributing to global warming.   

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Friday Talking Points -- End Of The Silly Season

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 20:57

It's still only August, but already the predictions that this would be an exceedingly banal presidential election campaign look like they've already come true. This week's campaign news might be summed up as an elementary school playground shouting match: "You're a bigot!" "No, you're a bigot!" Sigh. We've still got over two months of this to get through, folks. And nobody sane expects things are going to get any better any time soon -- quite the opposite, in fact.

Now, normally August is the official "Silly Season" of politics, where reporters get so bored with the lack of actual political news (Congress having larked off on vacation for the entire month) that they write speculative pieces pondering ideas only one step removed from conspiracy theories. Like whether Donald Trump's real Machiavellian plan all along has been to start up his own alt-right media empire after he loses to Hillary Clinton. That's pretty much par for the August course. Over on the right, Rudy Giuliani is conspiracy-mongering the "Hillary is dangerously ill" storyline, which is also something you'd expect in August. Thankfully, we've only got less than a week to go until September, when pundits will all begin obsessing over the upcoming first presidential debate. So there's that to look forward to.

Speaking of the debate preparation, word is that Hillary Clinton hasn't yet decided who will "play Trump" in her debate prep sessions. Possible names floated: Joe Biden, Terry McAuliffe, Ed Rendell, and Alan Dershowitz. Then there are a few who probably could achieve the proper Trumpian levels of spontaneity: James Carville and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Our favorite suggestion, however, has to be Senator Al Franken. Franken has a lightning-quick wit and would likely be an incredibly caustic Trump stand-in, so we have to say he'd be one of the better candidates for the job.

Donald Trump is (mostly, so far) sticking to the "read the damn speech as it's written" strategy his new campaign managers have imposed upon him, although he did emerge from the bunker of Fox News to give Anderson Cooper an interview this week -- the first non-Fox interview he seems to have given all month long. It didn't go real well, mostly because nobody has been able to figure out what Trump's position on immigration is at any particular moment. And that includes Trump himself, who was all over the map this week on what to do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States. Trump's always been a big fan of just rounding them all up and deporting them, which he has espoused too many times to count during his campaign. Now, apparently, someone told him that he actually needs a few minority voters to have any prayer of winning, so he's "softening" (his word) on the deportation force he's previously promised. Or maybe he isn't. Maybe they'll have to leave, maybe they won't -- it all depends on what day Trump is asked the question, because his answers keep radically flip-flopping. His campaign had earlier scheduled a big speech on the issue where he'd roll out his detailed deportation plans, but the speech had to be cancelled (assumably after the speechwriters had a nervous breakdown trying to figure out Trump's actual position). Or maybe it's a high-level fight within the campaign between the hardliners and those who have the ability to read a poll, who knows?

Trump is also finally trying to put together some semblance of a ground game, and he's surrounding himself with the best people, as promised. In a key Colorado district, this means a 12-year-old is running Trump's campaign effort. You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried, folks.

But back to Trump's newfound appreciation of minorities. After continuously bragging during the primaries about his poll numbers (including claims to be "winning" among Latinos and African-Americans), Trump finally seems to have realized that he is not, in fact, convincing many people of color to support him. So he's got a new message to them -- one he's delivering in front of lily-white crowds in multiple states. Trump's message? "Your life sucks, so vote for me because I couldn't possibly be any worse!" No, really -- that's his idea of outreach. That's not an actual quote, though, merely a summary. Here's an actual quote from one of his rallies this week:

Look at how much African-American communities are suffering from Democratic control. To those I say the following: What do you have to lose by trying something new like Trump? What do you have to lose? You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the Hell do you have to lose?

Later, he promised that if he becomes president, no black children would be shot while walking down the street -- a pretty sweeping promise! But what Trump doesn't seem to realize is that not every single black or brown American lives in an inner city, and furthermore that there actually are black and brown people with good jobs and living situations. Trump doesn't seem worried about his minority appeal, though, stating boldly that when he is re-elected in 2020, he'll get "95 percent" of the African-American vote. When asked about this tidbit of insanity, Trump running mate Mike Pence burst out laughing, on camera.

All of that was just the beginning of Trump's week of minority outreach, mind you. By the end of the week, he was telling anyone who would listen that Hillary Clinton was a bigot. Anderson Cooper even helpfully defined the term to Trump ("Bigotry is having hatred towards a particular group"), but Trump refused to change his mind, when Cooper directly asked whether he still thought she was bigoted:

Oh, she is. Of course she is. Her policies. They're her policies she comes out with the policies and others that believe like she does also but she came out with policies over the years.... This is over the years. Long time. She's totally bigoted, there's no question about that.

This was all an effort to pre-empt Hillary Clinton's speech this week, where she laid out in painful detail why Donald Trump is, in fact, a bigot (more on this in a moment). But if anyone is wondering why the audiences at Trump's rallies are so startlingly non-minority in nature, perhaps it's because the campaign staff seem to be going out of their way to assure this homogeneity. A previous supporter of Trump (who now says he can't bring himself to vote for the man) wrote a first-person account for the Washington Post about how he was kicked out of a Trump rally:

I still don't know why I was asked to leave. But I think it has something to do with my race. My mother is white and my father is Indian. When [the campaign security person] saw me, I wonder whether he noticed that I look different from most Trump supporters. I wonder whether he assumed that I couldn't possibly support Trump because of how I look.

So, in other words, that minority outreach thingie seems to be going swimmingly! Maybe 95 percent of all minorities will be voting for Trump this year -- at least in Donald Trump's fevered imagination.

Things have gotten so bad that it's hard for other racially-insensitive Republicans to even get attention. Maine's governor Paul LePage gave it the old college try this week, when he asserted that nine out of ten drug dealers arrested in his state were people of color, which he knew because he kept a binder full of all their mug shots. He then doubled down -- when asked whether this might be because of racial profiling, LePage stated:

Look, a bad guy is a bad guy, I don't care what color it is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy, the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, you shoot at red, don't you? You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority right now coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin. I can't help that. I just can't help it. Those are the facts.

Good thing he doesn't have to worry about minority outreach up there (Maine is 95 percent white). Maine's governor also -- for good measure -- left a profanity-laden tirade on a lawmaker's voice mail, just in case that whole "black/brown people are the enemy" thing wasn't enough to get him in the news. A local paper even wrote an editorial apologizing to the rest of the country for him, entitled: "Message To America: Sorry We Gave You LePage."

LePage wasn't the only Republican caught on tape cursing like a sailor, though. A guy who lost two elections in Maryland moved to Florida and is running for a House district miles from where he actually lives. This serial campaigner was outraged that a journalist exposed the fact that virtually all of his donations have come from outside his district as well, so he dropped multiple F-bombs even though he knew full well he was being recorded. Is this a new trend, due to Donald Trump's candidacy? It's too soon to tell, really.

But there was actually some good news out of Maine this week, as President Obama created a new National Monument in the north woods. We heartily applaud such conservation efforts, no less because we may have actually been to this land before (it'd be impossible to tell without a really good topo map), when we visited Baxter State Park, home of the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and the highest point in Maine, Mount Katahdin. The newly-created Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument abuts Baxter State Park, and was President Obama's 100th birthday present to the National Park Service. So, like we said, not all the news out of Maine this week was bad.


Hillary Clinton gave us all a preview of what the presidential debates are going to be like this week, with a speech given at a community college in Reno, Nevada. The entire speech was a point-by-point takedown of Donald Trump's character and unfitness for office. This week's talking points section is comprised of excerpts from this speech, which truly pulled no punches. For taking on Trump so directly and forcefully, Hillary Clinton is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

Donald Trump has spent the last two weeks desperately trying to convince white suburbanites that he isn't as scary and bigoted as they think. His floundering around in weak attempts at minority outreach were not really designed to appeal to minorities (since that boat has largely sailed already), but instead they were designed to soften his image among the demographic groups that normally vote Republican pretty reliably, but this year have been recoiling from Trump in horror.

Clinton's speech was a necessary reminder that Trump is precisely as scary and bigoted as everyone thinks. All that Clinton really needed to do, in fact, was to stand up and read off some of the hundreds of things Donald Trump has said about how he sees (and how he would treat) minorities in America. His own words condemn him -- nothing else is even really necessary.

Clinton's speech went even further, however. The broad theme she's been campaigning on recently has been: "What you see is what you get with Donald Trump." There will be no pivot, because there simply is nothing to pivot to. He is who he is, as even he will cheerfully admit. All Clinton did was to remind everyone of who Donald Trump is, as opposed to who he's now desperately pretending to be.

Trump has had a message for minorities which has been pretty consistent throughout his campaign. Minorities, to him and his supporters, are "The Other." They are not us, they are outsiders to be feared, investigated, arrested, jailed, deported, and barred from entry to the United States. That's his minority message in a nutshell, and no amount of "outreach" now is going to change it.

Hillary Clinton just reminded everyone of this fact. She did so in great detail, giving us a preview of some of the issues she'll be hitting Trump on during the upcoming debates. She is signaling that she will not shy away from taking Trump on directly, which is a relief. Trump is so vulnerable on so many issues that even Clinton's speech had to be confined only to his bigotry. Even so, there's so much to choose from that Clinton had the luxury of only providing the low points of Trump's campaign -- plenty of other offensive things he has said or done weren't even included.

For taking Trump on in such a bold fashion, Hillary Clinton easily wins this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

[It is our standing policy not to provide contact information for political campaign websites, so you'll have to look Hillary Clinton up yourself to let her know you appreciate her efforts this week.]


We actually don't have a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award to hand out. We had two possibilities, but both of them are, at best, only "guilt by association with family members" scandals, which don't really qualify.

The first of these was the exposure of yet another drug company using profiteering off of sick people as their business model. The price of EpiPens was hiked hundreds of dollars, just because the company thought it could get away with it. This company is led by Heather Bresch, whose multi-million-dollar salary also exploded during the same time period. The woman in question is the daughter of West Virginia's Senator Joe Manchin, who has been trying to lay low on the issue while many of his fellow senators are calling for an investigation. But Manchin himself bears no real blame for having a money-grubbing daughter, so no award is possible here.

The second was a little bit more relevant to the politician. A House member from California, Ami Bera, got over $200,000 in campaign donations over two separate election cycles that were funneled to him by his father, Babulal Bera. When confronted by the evidence that he had financed the illegal campaign donation scheme, Babulal admitted it. He's now going to serve a year and a day in jail for doing so. But his son apparently had nothing to do with the scheme, so even having his father convicted of campaign money-laundering for his own benefit doesn't quite rise to the level of earning a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Guilt by association, even with a close family member, doesn't really qualify.

So we're not giving a MDDOTW award out this week, unless we missed someone obvious you'd like to nominate for the award (down in the comments, as usual).


Volume 405 (8/26/16)

What follows are seven excerpts from Hillary Clinton's Reno speech on Donald Trump, presented in the order they appeared in the speech. Clinton has a pretty easy job, as we've mentioned, because attacking Trump is so easy -- just review his record of statements and actions. Trump's response was, predictably, to play the childish game of: "I know you are but what am I?" Or, perhaps, the more-adult version: "Who are you going to believe, me or your lyin' eyes?"

As the presidential campaign moves into its final two months, more and more American voters are starting to pay close attention. Sadly, for many of them, this is the first time they've really done so. What this means is that everything that has happened so far has flown under the radar of millions of voters. Hillary Clinton needs to remind these folks of what Trump has already said and done as a candidate, every chance she gets. Most people have already formed an opinion about Trump, but not everyone. For those still open to persuasion (one way or the other), reviewing what has gone before is absolutely necessary. Trump's new campaign team is trying to reposition Trump as a friend and champion of minority rights in America. No, don't laugh -- that's exactly what they're now attempting. Clinton can't just sit back and hope everyone knows how laughable this is, she's got to make that case herself, repeatedly. The speech in Reno did an admirable job of doing precisely this, which is why we're turning over the whole talking points section to extended excerpts from this speech. No introductions are necessary for these talking points, we should also add -- Clinton's words alone are enough.


   Prejudice and paranoia

From the start, Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He is taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.

In just this past week, under the guise of "outreach" to African-Americans, Trump has stood up in front of largely white audiences and described black communities in such insulting and ignorant terms:

"Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing. No homes. No ownership. Crime at levels nobody has seen." Right now," he said, "you walk down the street and get shot."


   Not qualified for the job

Now, Trump's lack of knowledge or experience or solutions would be bad enough. But what he's doing here is more sinister. Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters. It's a disturbing preview of what kind of president he'd be.

And that's what I want to make clear today: A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far, dark reaches of the internet, should never run our government or command our military.


   The pattern continued

Well, throughout his career and this campaign, Donald Trump has shown us exactly who he is. We should believe him.

When Trump was getting his start in business, he was sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to black and Latino tenants. Their applications would be marked with a "C" -- "C" for "colored" -- and then rejected. Three years later, the Justice Department took Trump back to court because he hadn't changed.

And the pattern continued through the decades. State regulators fined one of Trump's casinos for repeatedly removing black dealers from the floor. No wonder the turn-over rate for his minority employees was way above average.

And let's not forget Trump first gained political prominence leading the charge for the so-called "Birthers." He promoted the racist lie that President Obama is not really an American citizen - part of a sustained effort to delegitimize America's first black president.


   Textbook definition

We all remember when Trump said a distinguished federal judge born in Indiana couldn't be trusted to do his job because, quote, "He's a Mexican."

Think about that.

The man who today is the standard-bearer of the Republican Party said a federal judge -- who by the way had a distinguished record as U.S. attorney, had to go in hiding because Mexican drug gangs were after him, who has Mexican heritage but just like me was born in this country -- is somehow incapable of doing his job solely because of his heritage. Even the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, described that -- and I quote -- as "the textbook definition of a racist comment."

To this day, Trump has never apologized to Judge Curiel.


   Dream on, Donald

Through it all, he has continued pushing discredited conspiracy theories with racist undertones. You remember he said that thousands of American Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks. They didn't.

He suggested that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Now perhaps in Trump's mind, because Mr. Cruz was a Cuban immigrant, he must have had something to do with it. And there is absolutely, of course, no evidence of that.

Just recently, Trump claimed that President Obama founded ISIS. And he has repeated that over and over again.

His latest paranoid fever dream is about my health. All I can say is, Donald, dream on. This is what happens when you treat the National Enquirer like Gospel.


   How would they prove it?

And he'd ban Muslims around the world, billions of them, from entering our country just because of their religion. Think about that for a minute. How would it actually work? So people landing in U.S. airports would line up to get their passports stamped, just like they do now. But in Trump's America, when they step up to the counter, the immigration officer would ask every single person, "What is your religion?"

And then what? What if someone says, "I'm a Christian," but the agent doesn't believe him? Do they have to prove it? How would they do that?

Really, ever since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, America has distinguished itself as a haven for people fleeing religious persecution, believing in religious freedom and religious liberty. Under Donald Trump, America would distinguish itself as the only country in the world to impose a religious test at the border.

Come to think of it, there actually may be one other place that does that. The so-called Islamic State. The territory that ISIS controls. What a would be a cruel irony that someone running for president would equate us with them.


   More cowbell!

Trump likes to say he only hires the "best people." But he's had to fire so many campaign managers it's like an episode from The Apprentice. The latest shake-up was designed to -- quote -- "Let Trump be Trump." To do that, he hired Stephen Bannon, the head of a right-wing website called Breitbart.com, as campaign CEO.

To give you a flavor of his work, here are a few headlines they've published:

"Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy."

"Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?"

"Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement's Human Shield"

"Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage."

That one came shortly after the Charleston massacre, when Democrats and Republicans alike were doing everything they could to heal racial divides. Breitbart tried to enflame them further.

Just imagine -- Donald Trump reading that and thinking: "This is what I need more of in my campaign."


Chris Weigant blogs at:

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Wisconsin Gets To Enforce Restrictive Voter ID Law, With One Big Twist

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 20:55

A federal appeals court on Friday seemed to reach a limited compromise in the controversy over Wisconsin’s voter identification law, which has been in the crosshairs of multiple lawsuits and appeals for years.

With one judge recused, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit consolidated the disputes and issued an order that kept the law on the books, but appeared to give voting rights advocates a small consolation prize ahead of the November election.

The court explicitly rejected a softening device ― like one ordered by a federal judge this month in Texas ― that would allow voters lacking the required voter ID card to simply sign an affidavit attesting to their identity before they cast a ballot.

Instead, the court accepted assurances from the state of Wisconsin that its Division of Motor Vehicles would “mail automatically a free photo ID to anyone who comes to DMV one time and initiates the free ID process.”

“No one must present documents, that, for some, have proved challenging to acquire; no one must show a birth certificate, proof of citizenship, and the like,” the court noted, quoting the state from a prior legal filing.

The 7th Circuit stressed that mere “initiation” of this process ― showing up at the DMV, regardless of what documentation the prospective voter has ― was enough for a voter to receive a voting credential at no cost.

But this also presupposes that affected voters, especially those of lesser means or without transportation, actually can make it to a DMV location. Or that the state will actually keep voters informed that this mechanism even exists.

Pointing to other rulings striking down similar voter ID laws in other states, the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought one of the lawsuits against Wisconsin, didn’t seem to trust the state to deliver.

“Two trial courts have found that, over the last five years, Wisconsin has utterly failed to get IDs into the hands of voters who need them,” Sean Young, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s voting rights project, said in a statement. “There’s no reason to believe that the state’s latest eleventh-hour ‘emergency’ procedures will work any better than its past failed policies.”

Young added that the ACLU would keep fighting the law in court, but didn’t say whether he would seek Supreme Court review.

Richard Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, who specializes in election law, wrote in a blog post that, given time constraints ahead of the November election, it’s unlikely that the Supreme Court would intervene.

“I think this is the end of the line for this election,” Hasen wrote.

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Trump's Doctor Has An Amazing Explanation For That Bizarre Medical Report

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 20:12

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Donald Trump’s personal physician told NBC News that he wrote a now-infamous medical report about the candidate in just five minutes.

Dr. Harold Bornstein, a gastroenterologist who has been Trump’s doctor for more than three decades, released a brief note last December declaring the reality TV star would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” The four-paragraph letter, which billed Trump’s health as “astonishingly excellent,” was far less detailed than medical reports traditionally released by presidential candidates. 

In an interview with NBC airing Friday, Bornstein said he spent “five minutes” on the letter while a car sent by Trump waited for him outside his office in Manhattan. 

“I get rushed and I get anxious when I get rushed, so I try to get four or five lines done as fast as possible,” Bornstein explained. “In a rush, I think some of those words didn’t come out exactly the way they were meant.”

The doctor stood by his assessment of the reality TV star’s wellness.

“His health is excellent, particularly his mental health,” he said. 

He also defended the claim that Trump would be the healthiest president in history.

“I like that sentence to be quite honest with you, and all the rest of them are either sick or dead,” he said. 

Watch the interview above.

Bornstein and his bizarre note have come under scrutiny again as Trump and his campaign surrogates have floated conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s health. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pressed Trump campaign manager Kellyane Conway on the issue during an interview Thursday. 

“If he was elected, Donald Trump would be the oldest person to ever be sworn in as president,” Maddow said. “Whether or not he’s going to try to make Hillary Clinton’s health the issue, doesn’t he owe it to the American people to release an actual medical report, a more credible, more complete statement?”

Conway said “perhaps” he should release more information.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Weekend Roundup: Anti-Global Backlash Is Realigning Politics Across the West

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 19:29
The great sociologist Max Weber postulated that the birth act of modern capitalism was the secession of business from the household and thus the web of moral and ethical obligations that intimate form of human organization entailed. Zygmunt Bauman has called globalization the "'second secession'" in which unleashed capitalism has "'flown away'" from the constraints of the nation-state, in effect the larger household. Now, national households are clawing back their claims, reasserting sovereignty in an anti-globalization backlash that is profoundly realigning politics.

"Across the West," Nouriel Roubini writes, "establishment parties of the right and the left are being disrupted -- if not destroyed from the inside. Within such parties, the losers from globalization are finding champions of anti-globalization that are challenging the formal mainstream orthodoxy. Thus, the traditional distinction between center-right and center-left is breaking down." In the U.S. and Britain, he notes, working class voters traditionally aligned with the left, are joining the ranks of Trump and Brexit. In continental Europe, discontent with immigration and austerity has given rise to new parties on both the far right and the far left. "A new political alignment,' Roubini concludes, "erases the old left and right paradigms of labor versus capital, workers versus business, taxes and regulation versus free enterprise. Instead, the new alignment will be organized around pro and anti-global integration forces." As Roubini points out, support for globalization these days comes mainly from the emerging economies, which have largely benefited from foreign investment and access to global markets. While inequality has grown within the West, he notes, it has diminished on a global scale.

To the extent global integration has touched Brazil, pride rises with greater prosperity. As the Olympics wound down, Adriana Caitano vents her anger in an open letter from Brazil "to people who love to come here to enjoy the beaches and stare at women in bikinis, but disrespect the country that hosts them." She imagines what the "American swimmers [involved in the faux robbery scandal] must have thought: Of course it would be very possible for four foreign, white, tall, Olympians to be assaulted in Rio de Janeiro. Who would not believe it? This underdeveloped country can't even clean a pool the right way. They would never be able to find the truth. So we'll just go back to the American dream with our medals."

One can't speak these days of bikinis in Brazil without bringing to mind the controversy over banning the burkini in France, where local police this week forced a woman on a Nice beach to show more skin in her bathing wardrobe. Willa Frej reports on a man in France who has been paying the fines for women ticketed under the burkini ban. Nick Robins-Early examines what many regard as the weak reasoning behind the ban. And, indeed, by week's end, France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, suspended the ban in an initial ruling in a case brought by a human rights group. At the same time, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for office again, pledged he would implement a nationwide ban on the burkini if elected.

During a visit to the beach in Izmir Province, Turkey, Ilgin Yorulmaz surveys opinion in that Muslim-majority country with a modern secular history. "With historical ties to France," she reports, "Turks are divided over their opinions of the burkini both in France and in their own country." Despite Canada's historic links to France, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made clear his country doesn't share France's secular fundamentalism. "We should be past tolerance," he says, and move toward embracing diversity. In a post from HuffPost Maghreb, Akram Belkaïd calls for, "open debate about this implicit requirement of total assimilation" behind the burkini ban. Writing from Germany where a debate is underway about banning the burqa, Christian Democratic Union politician Ruprecht Polenz similarly argues that, "underlying the burqa debate is the fear that we can never eliminate the differences in our society."

The repercussions of the Turkish coup continue to roil the geopolitical landscape. As U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Turkey this week in an effort to temper rising anti-Americanism fueled by a belated and tepid response by U.S. authorities to the failed coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan doubled down on the demand to hand over Fethullah Gülen, who lives in the U.S. and whom he sees as the culprit behind the attempted overthrow of the government. Reviewing these developments, David Hearst asks, "Is America losing Turkey?" Doug Bandow thinks that it would be a good idea if America did lose Turkey. "The growth of Putinism in Ankara today is a terrible embarrassment, with no corresponding security benefit for America as compensation," he writes. "The U.S. should change its approach to reflect changing circumstances. Turkey's membership in NATO no longer serves America's and Europe's interests." Farah Mohamed examines the impact of the coup attempt on the long-festering conflict between Greeks and Turks in Cyprus. Resolution of that conflict is seen by many as a key stepping stone in Turkey's bid to join the European Union, a relationship now even more fraught as Europe is deeply wary of Erdoğan's even sharper post-coup turn toward authoritarianism. As one Cypriot told Mohamed, some islanders, "feel caught up in a fight that does not belong to them."

In an essay titled "Why China Fears a 'Color Revolution' Incited by the West," I argue that the U.S. should appreciate the resonances of China's history as a unitary state present in today's one-party system. By recognizing that system's legitimacy, the U.S. would allay the suspicion of China's leaders that it is seeking to foment regime change through the promotion and support of human rights activists. I further argue that, for the first time in the long history of China's "institutional civilization," an autonomous civil society is emerging because everyone now has the same information as those who rule them. "Whether China ends up on the wrong side of history or not depends on its ability to find a balance between rule from the top and an emergent civil society from below," I conclude. "We in the West should encourage China's effort to forge a new equilibrium out of its own experience, not seek to project our legacy onto their future."

Writing from Beijing, Peiran Wei asks, "Why are Chinese companies, which have long been playing catch-up with their U.S. counterparts, now leading the way?"

Finally, our Singularity series this week looks at how Harvard scientists have "radically rewritten" the E. coli genome, heralding a major step forward in synthetic biology.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at The Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost's news coverage. Nick Robins-Early is a World Reporter. Rowaida Abdelaziz is World Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the "whole mind" way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute's 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council -- as well as regular contributors -- to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.

We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.

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Trump And Racism

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 19:03
WOLF. I see in the paper today that you have once again changed your position on African-Americans and minorities.

TRUMP. I didn't change anything. Donald Trump is consistent in every word he says, okay?

WOLF. But didn't you originally say you approved of David Duke and the KKK.

TRUMP. Nooooo!! Where did I ever say that?

WOLF. Actually in your last interview with me.

TRUMP. You misunderstood me again. I never mentioned David Dukes. What I said was, Put up your Dukes, cause you're annoying me.

WOLF. And the KKK?

TRUMP. Oh, that. All I did was start to sing K-K-K-Katie. (Starts to sing it)

WOLF. I didn't know you liked to sing.

TRUMP. Yes, and I'd love to put all those super predators in Sing-Sing, too.

WOLF. Now that's a phrase that's getting attention these days. But it won't endear you to minority groups, especially when you are working so hard now to win their votes. It backfired on Hillary when she first used it.

TRUMP. Black people love me. They all love Donald Trump, right?

WOLF. They love Hillary even more.
But inventing such a phrase has gotten her in a lot of trouble.

TRUMP. You misheard me. What I referred to was not super predators but super editors. You know, on newspapers.

WOLF. Are you also changing your mind about the press? I thought you hated newspapers.

TRUMP. How can I hate them when they put me on the front page every day? I love them.

WOLF. Well, they certainly can't stop publishing your picture.

TRUMP. That's because of my hair-do. Nobody has a hair-do like I do. When I'm President, everyone will be imitating it.

WOLF. You know the polls are not being very optimistic about your chances so far.

TRUMP. Because Hillary is paying them off. This is a rigged election, you know.

WOLF. Because you're behind in the polls?

TRUMP. No, because Hillary is ahead in the polls.

WOLF: So you expect to win, despite the numbers?

TRUMP: Everybody loves me, okay? I'll win by a landslide.

WOLF: Even the African-American vote?

TRUMP: Even the Super Predator vote.

WOLF: Thank you [big breath] very much, and a Good Night from Broken news.

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Facebook's Trending News Topics Will Now Be Automated

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 18:34

Facebook has decided to rely on computer algorithms instead of human editors to select news stories for its “trending topics” section. 

Trending topics, which appear on the right side of Facebook users’ newsfeeds, highlight articles that visitors are discussing most at any particular moment. Previously, curators selected which topics to feature from an algorithmically generated list of what people on Facebook were talking about, and wrote a brief description of each topic. 

Following allegations that editors running the trending news section were biased against conservative news sources and viewpoints, the social media behemoth announced Friday it has moved toward an automated system relying almost exclusively on algorithms. Editors still oversee the section to ensure quality.

“Our goal is to enable Trending for as many people as possible, which would be hard to do if we relied solely on summarizing topics by hand,” the company said in a blog post on Friday. “A more algorithmically driven process allows us to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time.”  

The company also eliminated written descriptions that appear below each topic ― a tweak Facebook quietly tested earlier this summer. 

As for the curators themselves, a Facebook spokesperson said the company is “shifting” to a new team. 

“In this new version of Trending we no longer need to draft topic descriptions or summaries, and as a result we are shifting to a team with an emphasis on operations and technical skill sets, which helps us better support the new direction of the product,” the Facebook spokesperson told HuffPost. 

A person who had worked on Facebook’s trending news team spoke to The Huffington Post on condition of anonymity so as not to face repercussions from the company, and confirmed that the team had been laid off.

In May, Gizmodo published a report, based on conversations with a former Facebook contractor, that alleged the site had routinely stopped news stories of particular interest to conservative audiences from appearing in the trending section. The report drew intense outrage from conservatives, and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) penned a letter to the company, requesting information on the process for selecting stories for the module. Shortly after, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with right-wing media personalities, including Glenn Beck, to discuss concerns. 

An internal investigation found no evidence of political bias. Still, Zuckerberg decided to change the system the trending team used to source news, and added additional oversight processes. The latest change removes human input from the system almost entirely. 

“Making these changes to the product allows our team to make fewer individual decisions about topics,” reads the blog post. “Facebook is a platform for all ideas, and we’re committed to maintaining Trending as a way for people to access a breadth of ideas and commentary about a variety of topics.”

Previously on HuffPost: The Facebook News Scandal Explained

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University Of North Carolina Is Barred From Enforcing So-Called 'Bathroom Law'

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 18:16

A federal court on Friday barred the University of North Carolina from enforcing the “bathroom bill” portion of H.B. 2 against two transgender students and an employee who sued over its implementation.

The law, which has made waves in North Carolina since the legislature passed it in March, has been the subject of a flurry of litigation by and against the Department of Justice, civil rights groups, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and family-values groups that support the legislation.

In his ruling, which recognized all this “piecemeal” court activity, U.S. District Judge Thomas Shroeder said he had “no reason to believe that an injunction returning to the state of affairs as it existed before March 2016 would pose a privacy or safety risk for North Carolinians, transgender or otherwise.”

Schroeder’s order is preliminary until he holds a full trial, or else an appeals court reviews it further. It also only applies to the North Carolina law’s bathroom provision, which mandates that public facilities be used only in accordance with the person’s “biological sex.”

As with related disputes bubbling in lower courts, a key issue in the case is whether this part of H.B. 2 violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a law that requires educational programs receiving federal funding to abide by its prohibition against sex discrimination.

Courts are grappling with whether the “sex” provision of Title IX and other federal civil rights laws cover transgender individuals. But Schroeder recognized that North Carolina is bound by an April ruling that found that the Department of Education’s own reading of Title IX in favor of trans students is owed deference.

That ruling “requires Title IX institutions in this circuit to generally treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity, including in showers and changing rooms,” Schroeder wrote, even as he acknowledged that its future “is uncertain.”

Relying on submissions from North Carolina that more or less confirmed that the state already accommodated transgender individuals and that its “decades-old” laws against invasion of privacy were working as intended, the judge seemed to suggest that H.B. 2 was a solution in search of a problem.

“Rather, on the current record, it appears that some transgender individuals have been quietly using facilities corresponding with their gender identity and that, in recent years, State educational institutions have been accommodating such students where possible,” Schroeder wrote.

“In short,” he added, “UNC may not apply HB2’s one-size-fits-all approach to what must be a case-by-case inquiry.”

Friday’s ruling appears to be on a collision course with a Texas ruling earlier this week forbidding the federal government from enforcing trans-inclusive guidelines in public schools nationwide. Sooner rather than later, one or more of these cases are likely to be resolved by the Supreme Court.

This was a developing story and has been updated throughout. 

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Ferguson’s 'Debtors Prison’ Racket Has Been Reined In. Now Its Police Force May Be Falling Apart.

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 18:14

ST. LOUIS ― The head of Ferguson’s police dispatch tendered her resignation in a turbulent city council meeting this week, telling city officials that budgeting and staffing constraints have made it impossible to do her job.

Shannon Dandridge, who worked for dispatch for 13 years, cried as she read from a letter she had submitted at the time of her Aug. 10 departure. She said that her office is understaffed and undertrained.  Dispatchers aren’t getting breaks, which is leading to fatigue and creating a potentially dangerous situation, she added.

“Mistakes are going to happen, someone is going to get hurt, whether a citizen or officer,” she said. “I don’t feel at this point we can properly staff the dispatch center to keep the community and officers safe. Something needs to be done immediately. After over 26 years working in law enforcement I’ve never seen such a disconnect between a city and its police department.”

Dandridge said budget cuts have decimated staff, reducing her office from seven full-time dispatchers and 10 part-time dispatchers to five full-time dispatchers and an “unlimited” amount of part-timers ― who need training and don’t have the benefits of a full position.

Ferguson employees say what’s happening in the dispatch office is indicative of budget and hiring problems across the police force. Shortly after the August 2014 police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer, the U.S. Department of Justice began an investigation into the Ferguson police that exposed numerous faults, including that it targeted residents ― mostly black ― with tickets and other municipal fines to increase revenue for the city. “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices,” the report said, “are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs.”

Several officials resigned in the wake of the report, including the police chief, city manager, city prosecutor, city clerks, municipal judge and police officers. In a step toward reform, city officials reached an agreement with the Justice Department that, among other things, requires the city to reform its municipal enforcement practices. But the police force has been decimated in the meantime, due to the resignation of numerous staff and budget cuts resulting from an inability to fill the gap in revenue the city used to bring in from all those municipal fines.

When the DOJ investigation began, there were 54 officers on the force. By May 2015, that number was down to 43, police spokesman Jeff Small told The St. Louis American. They were down to 41 officers as of mid-July, Small told The Huffington Post this week, which was the most recent tally of officers the city could provide. Former city workers said they think the number is actually more like 36 officers at this point.

HuffPost asked a Ferguson spokesperson for updated figures on how many officers are currently on staff, and about why they have lost so many officers. The spokesman pointed to an op-ed from the police chief that was addressed to the community. “Although we are working with laser focus on the future, the responsibilities of the [Ferguson Police Department] to keep the public safe have greatly expanded,” wrote Moss. “The heavy workload comes amid budgetary constraints and high levels of attrition leaving fewer police officers on our streets. The situation is a top priority being addressed between the city manager and council members.

Moss wrote that the police department “is aggressively seeking grants and other funding opportunities to ease the budget shortages,” and is “working hard to recruit a diverse group of police officers.”

That doesn’t seem to be happening fast enough for some city workers. Dandridge and other former employees told council members that they stayed with the force through the months of protest and unrest following Brown’s death. But they have grown increasingly frustrated with slow hiring and a lack of communication from city officials. “We hung in there. My husband went through everything that everyone else has gone through the past few years. It was very challenging,” the wife of one former Ferguson police officer told the council. “I can’t give you a whole list of reasons why he left. I think some of them should be obvious, but I will share with you that the lack of communication was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Ferguson was already dealing with a $2.9 million deficit. And now it can no longer rely on collecting municipal fees from its citizens ― which brought in $2.5 million in revenue for the city in 2013 ― under the agreement with the DOJ. The city is also on the hook for a monitor, to make sure officials are implementing changes to the police department consistent with the DOJ agreement, which is going to cost up to $350,000 per year. The city will also likely face significant legal costs in connections with several ongoing lawsuits (though it is possible that those costs will be covered by insurance). Meanwhile, the city has spent tens of thousands of dollars on prosecuting protesters.

City officials have tried to fill the gap with tax increases. Voters approved a sales tax increase in April, which is expected to bring in $800,000 per year - but they rejected a property tax increase. Voters also approved an increase in business taxes earlier this month, though that is only expected to bring in another $700,000 annually.  

Others present at Tuesday’s meeting backed up Dandridge’s assertion that the budget cuts are having a negative impact on the police force. David Sussman, who worked for two years as a Ferguson dispatcher, said at the meeting that he was forced out of his position in June. “I was removed from full-time staff with benefits and offered part-time status with no benefits and very few hours,” said Sussman, who was paid $15.32 an hour. “I had to refuse it.”

Sussman said that though technically he left his job voluntarily, in reality he was given no choice. “I did not resign. You terminated my employment,” Sussman said. “To lose as many personnel that we did is a shame.”

Dandridge told council members that she had requested additional hires almost a year ago, but the city manager and financial director told her multiple times that there was a hiring freeze for dispatchers. She also said that her requests to meet with city manager Carl Seawood about the situation had been denied. And she said she had met with Ferguson’s financial director, Jeffrey Blume, last December, but her concerns were ignored.

Dandridge recalled a recent incident where someone called 911 about an overturned van but gave the wrong address; because there was only one dispatcher on duty, several other calls came in but were not answered. Officers, ambulance and fire were sent to the wrong location as a result.

Seawood admitted at the council meeting that communication between the city and its employees has been strained and is in need of improvement. He said that hiring additional staff has been an issue. “We want to make sure we are hiring the right people. So our process is more tedious,” Seawood said. “We’re making sure that the people who are hired are bringing not just the skillset, but the right personality for our community.”

Police Chief Delrish Moss, who was hired in May, echoed Seawood. “I understand the need to hire police officers, we are short. I understand the need to hire dispatchers, we are short,” Moss said. “But what keeps police chiefs up at night is the fact that you hired the wrong person.”

Moss comes to Ferguson from the Miami police department, which also experienced civil unrest in the 1980s and ‘90s, as well as the loss of much of its police force at the time. Moss said he is working on hiring new officers, but the job market is competitive with neighboring departments, which are also recruiting new hires.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, who once worked alongside Dandridge as a police dispatcher, worried that her negative depiction of the city’s situation would “freak everybody out and make them want to leave.”  

Dandridge and some of her supporters have accused Knowles of lying to the media about having 44 officers on the police force, saying there are in fact only 36. Dandridge and others at the meeting accused city officials of using the city’s need for police and fire department personnel as a way to get voters to back the tax increases, but have not actually followed through with funding and hiring those officers.

Prior to the election, Knowles told HuffPost during a sit-down interview it was important for the tax increases to pass in order to comply with the consent decree costs so that there wouldn’t be too many cuts to the police department.

“Rumor has it the city used the shortage of the officers and closing fire house 2 as the sympathy getter to get the votes needed to pass the tax.” Dandridge wrote in her exit interview.

“If you’re worried about how many people we have, you should be worried about how many people are here, instead of getting everybody scared and running off,” Knowles said at the meeting. Knowles did not deny that he gave an inaccurate number of officers, but he also did not explain why he gave the wrong number, instead he told people at the meeting that there needs to be more officers. He told meeting attendees that although the city is authorized to have 44 officers, they didn’t have 44 at the time he announced it.  

“We need to be authorized to hire more than that,” Knowles said.

The city hired a consultant to complete a staffing study on the department and make the necessary recommendations on how many people should work in each department. The consultant recommended that the city have 52 officers on the force, including a minimum of 11 full-time and four part-time dispatchers, to comply with the consent decree, according to Dandridge who said she spent approximately 120 hours working with the consultant.

Dandridge said the city can’t continue operating in its current state: “They’re getting to the point where they’re not going to be able to sustain themselves if they don’t get some employees hired.”

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Air Force Injustice-Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 18:08
Assume you are single, and are accused of committing sexual assault during a weekend celebrating with a group of friends in New York City. You return to work, and your employer, a government contractor, tells you, that as a result of the accusation, your work-essential security clearance has been pulled. You must report to your job every day, but since you have no clearance, you will receive no meaningful assignments, and must just sit at your desk. You were slated for a promotion, but it is held up by your employer pending results of the grand jury investigation and possible trial. They also hold up any pay increase. Because your employer paid for your specialized undergraduate education, and you are contractually obligated to work for them for 6 years, you cannot quit and move on.

Some months later, a grand jury is convened and hears evidence. Your lawyer asks the District Attorney to provide immunity to a witness who can provide testimony that will exculpate you. The District Attorney denies the request. Even without that evidence, the grand jury concludes there is not enough evidence to warrant a trial. This is reported to the District Attorney. He rejects this grand jury recommendation. Your lawyer goes to court making a motion that the witness be given immunity. This motion is granted. After another significant delay, the same grand jury holds another hearing, considering this new important evidence, and for second time recommends the case not go to trial. The District Attorney, with no explanation, again disregards their recommendation and orders his prosecutors to proceed with a criminal trial against you.

This District attorney gets to select your jury. In order for you to be found guilty, only 3 of the 5 jurors must agree on the verdict. If you are convicted, you could go to prison for 10 years.

You now face a trial that will be ugly and embarrassing, a public display of highly intimate sexual details about the night in question. Your trial does not start until over 4 years after you are accused. Are you getting a fair shake? Is this justice?

United States Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried

Tragically, this is not a theoretical scenario. It is the reality faced by Air Force 1st Lt Josh Seefried, a 2009 Air Force Academy graduate. He is a cost analyst for the Air Force, stationed at a military base in the Washington, D.C area. This assignment requires a security clearance.

Seefried is also gay. He was the co-founder of an organization known as OutServe. This group of LGBT actively serving military members was critical in providing highly essential information and data used to accomplish repeal of the law previously known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ("DADT"). Due to his leadership role at OutServe, and the publicity he and the organization received after repeal was implemented, he is arguably a public person. Because of the important role he played in the repeal of DADT, Seefried likely has enemies within the military and without.

Another gay officer, a Marine 1st Lt, accused Seefried of sexual assault during the annual Fleet Week in New York City in 2012. The Marine claimed Seefried committed this assault after a day of drinking and partying with a group of gay officers. He contends that same evening, Seefried, without his consent, touched him, performed oral sex on him, and also may have penetrated his anus. Seefried denies these allegations.

Because of where Seefried is stationed, he falls under the legal jurisdiction of the Air Force District of Washington ("AFDW"). The Commander of AFDA is Major General Darryl W. Burke. As such, in the military justice system, Burke has immense legal power as the Convening Authority. An analogy could be drawn between Burke's authority and that of a civilian district attorney.

Burke was the one who ordered an Article 32 Hearing. An Air Force officer, a member of the Judge Advocate Corps("JAG") who is an experienced lawyer, usually conducts this hearing. He is mandated to conduct a comprehensive evaluation, considering all the evidence and taking testimony. This is much like a grand jury proceeding. Under the military system, a written report is prepared making a recommendation to the Convening Authority, stating whether there is sufficient probable cause to prosecute the accused. In Seefried's case, a highly respected JAG Air Force Colonel conducted the Article 32 Hearing. During this hearing, Seefried's attorney requested the Convening Authority grant immunity to a co-accused to allow him to provide exculpatory testimony. General Burke declined. After the first report was submitted recommending no court martial, General Burke rejected the conclusion. Seefried's lawyer, made a motion before the military judge to grant his co-accused immunity. The motion was granted, and a second Article 32 was ordered. The same Colonel conducted the second hearing. Considering new evidence from the now immunized co-accused, that arguably exculpated Seefried, the second report was submitted even more strongly recommending no trial. Why did General Burke again overrule this recommendation of this highly experienced lawyer and order 1st Lt Seefried to proceed to General Court Martial?

Shortly after he was charged, Seefried's Secret clearance was pulled. Because of the nature of his assignment, dealing with highly sensitive information, he could no longer carry out his duties. Rather than find him a position not requiring a clearance, his commander ordered him to report to work every day and sit at his desk. Because he could not function, his annual Officer Performance Report suffered tremendously.

Seefried had been selected for promoted from 1st Lt to Captain. Inexplicably, the Air Force held up his promotion and withheld the pay that accompanies this elevation in rank.

Until his General Court Martial began on August 22, 2016, this was the professional "life" of Lt Seefried. Regardless of the outcome of that trial, Lt Seefried's promising military career has been destroyed. As a result of mere allegations, he has lost 4 years of his professional life, not to mention the respect of both superiors and subordinates and the psychological trauma he has suffered by this ordeal

All of these consequences stem from General Burke's decision to proceed against Seefried after recommendations by the Article Hearing officer not to go to trial, not once, but twice. Is this right? Is this justice?

Sexual assault in the military is endemic. It is a very serious offense that must be unequivocally addressed and dealt with. The way Lt. Seefried's case has been handled by the Convening Authority, does not accomplish this end. General Burke is not alone. The history of the past several years shows that in sexual assault cases, Air Force Convening Authorities typically reject any recommendation not to go to trial. Rather than exercising their prosecutorial discretion, these Generals take the easy road, trying all cases alleging sexual assault. Is this not an assumption of guilty until proven innocent and punishment before trial? Does that not fly in the face of the core principal of our criminal justice system?

By effectively ruining the career of the accused, even before he has had his day in court, the course of action pursued against Seefried has been completely counterproductive. It detracts from confidence all service members must have in the military justice system. This saga is not just a personal tragedy for Lt. Seefried, but diminishes the reputation of the United States Air Force and is an insult to every American's sense of justice and fair play.

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Trump Embraces Anti-Immigration Establishment

Huffingon Post Politics - Fri, 2016-08-26 18:07

The political universe is abuzz with news that Donald Trump supposedly flip-flopped on immigration. Trump used to say that undocumented immigrants "have to go." He talked of a deportation force and lauded President Eisenhower's deportation plan called "Operation Wetback." Now, in an interview with Sean Hannity, Trump appears to support a softer policy allowing some of them to stay. This is both a smaller and a bigger change than it appears to be.

First, this is not the major flip-flop many are describing. Trump has spoken before about a "touchback" policy whereby some undocumented immigrants will be allowed back in after they leave. He even picked Governor Mick Pencewho was an early supporter of touchback legalization.

Second, the "deportation force" idea was always popular with Trump's supporters but less so than "build the wall" - which is now a running chant at his rallies. He hasn't repudiated his support for this wasteful, extravagant, and largely symbolic give away to the immigration enforcement industrial complex. Trump is currently running a campaign ad in four swing states that doubles down on border security.

Third, Trump's actual immigration plan, described by Ann Coulter as the "greatest political document since the Magna Carta," never called for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants. It supports cutting legal immigration and increasing deportations by tripling the size of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ending sanctuary city policies, targeting criminals, and other policies but never mentions a total removal.

The evidence of Trump's flip-flop is slim so far and, like many of his other statements, difficult to believe. But if he continues to alter his position to the point where he supports legalizing undocumented immigrants then this would actually mark a small change.

If Trump's new seeming support for a partial legalization is an actual change of position then, ironically, he's followed the advice of some of his loudest critics - the editors at National Review. Just this week they wrote that Trump should stop talking about deporting all undocumented immigrants and instead focus on immigration enforcement, slashing legal immigration, and then eventually offering some kind of amnesty for those left - a plan credited to Mark Krikorian of the nativist Center for Immigration Studies. That is exactly what Trump's position appears to be.

If Trump's flip is real, it's because his anti-immigration position was hurting him in the nationwide polls. His campaign was built on an anti-immigration appeal and it probably won him the primaries. In the general election, he's behind in every swing state and in the nationwide polls. Americans are much more supportive of legal immigration than just a few years ago and they generally support legalization, even Republicans. His signature issue, among other things, is driving him down.

The anti-immigration establishment praised Trump's rise in the GOP primary as evidence that their position was popular, but now they are terrified that Trump will drag their cause down with him. His impending electoral debacle would once and for all show that Know-Nothingism is not a viable strategy to national electoral success. Furthermore, Trump's ugly tone and position on immigration have gutted the intellectual respectability of restrictionism.

Overreacting to the supposed flip-flop, Mark Krikorian gleefully wrote a piece titled "If Trump Loses Now, It's Not Because He Was Too Tough on Immigration," in response to Trump adopting Krikorian's and National Review's position on immigration. Trump is continuing to call for a surge of enforcement and slashed legal immigration through his published immigration plan, campaign ads, and public statements. The remaining differences between Trump's plan and the Krikorian-National Review plan lack any meaningful distinctions.

Trump has apparently gone from embracing the fringes of the nativist movement as expressed in Breitbart to accepting the position of the anti-immigration establishment represented by Krikorian-National Review. The irony here is that Trump dumps Breitbart's position on deportations and adopts the editorial position of the critical National Review so soon after hiring the obsequious Breitbart head Steve Bannon as his campaign chief.

Trump might have altered his position on deportations but if he did he's just adopted the immigration plan of the anti-immigration establishment. That's hardly a shift to a pro-immigration position. Regardless of the spin, Trump is still the anti-immigration dream candidate.

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