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Clinton Emails

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-08-24 19:10

That headline is Hillary Clinton's biggest current problem. At this point, it has become akin to how Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign used to be described: "a noun, a verb, 9/11." Clinton has entered similar linguistic territory, because any headline using the word "Clinton" and the word "emails" now triggers a consistent reaction from the public. Details, even fresh new ones, don't even really matter all that much at this point -- all people are really hearing now is: "Clinton, a verb, emails."

The anti-Clinton forces consider it a victory to see yet another round of email stories written, of course. But in all the investigating and document dumps, they have never uncovered any sort of bonfire-sized scandal to inflame public passions -- it's all been pretty small-scale stuff. More on the order of a damp match being lit in a rainstorm than a bonfire, really. A brief burst of light and energy and then (...pffffft...) it fizzles out into nothingness. Because of the lack of truly scandalous revelations, it has instead become a campaign of attrition, with those opposed to Clinton hoping mightily that the sheer volume of "Clinton Emails" headlines will eventually wear her down in the public eye.

Hillary Clinton has had this drag on her campaign for over a year now, and I don't expect it to go away any time soon. Even long after she is elected president (assuming she wins), it's a pretty safe prediction that late-night comics will still be doing endless email jokes about her. Indeed, it has now become one of the defining factors of how the public sees Clinton.

But even having said all of that, it hasn't appeared to do her much damage politically. Her trustworthiness ratings are historically low, but they might have been that low even without the whole email mess (it's impossible to tell, really, but it's worth pointing out that people had other problems with trusting Hillary, long before the emails became a problem). Even so, she's still up in all the polls. About the worst thing you can say about her political position versus Donald Trump is that if the Democrats had chosen a different nominee (Joe Biden, say), he might now be doing a lot better against Trump in the polls. While this might be true, the difference between winning by eight points and crushing Trump by 20 points is rather immaterial. In both cases, Trump loses.

Of course, if the F.B.I. had urged the Justice Department to indict Clinton over her use of a private email server, things would be different. But they didn't. Once she got past that hurdle, it's hard to see the public really changing their minds before the election, at this point. Bernie Sanders was rather prophetic, because most of the public are now "tired of hearing about her damn emails."

The electorate has a short attention span for scandals. Especially damp-match-sized scandals. At some point, the candidate can realistically claim: "You're just bringing up old stuff that has already been endlessly hashed out," and then move on. It worked for Barack Obama over the Reverend Wright scandal, remember. The story broke, much ink was spilled over it, Obama gave a speech, and then he moved on. By the time the election happened, it was old news. Clinton's email story seems to be travelling a similar arc, although with her there's a constant drip, drip, drip of new emails being released. So far, though, they've shown nothing more than the shocking truth that wealthy individuals get access to the government -- which is not exactly a big revelation. It's likewise not a big revelation that the Clintons (both of them) have been in the midst of this atmosphere for decades now. Using Rumsfeldian language, this is a "known known."

Most people have already made up their minds about Clinton's emails, one way or the other. Absent any bonfire-sized new revelations, these attitudes are probably set in concrete and won't be changing before November. Those who already think Clinton is too sleazy to vote for won't be voting for her. Those who think Clinton is indeed sleazy but also far better than the alternative will probably be voting for her (unless they have something better to do on Election Day). Those who think the whole thing is a manufactured witchhunt straight out of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy playbook will be enthusiastically voting for Hillary, no matter how many more "Clinton Emails" headlines appear.

Call it email fatigue or just boredom at the lack of any fresher and more interesting scandals, but the public seems to have largely made up its mind on the question of Clinton's emails. Oh, sure, Donald Trump will get as much mileage out of it as possible (I'd bet he'll bring it up within the first ten minutes of the first debate, personally), but other than further enthusing his already-enthusiastic supporters, he's not likely to get a whole lot of traction from such attacks.

So the problem will persist for Hillary Clinton, for a long time to come. However, the problem is relatively small at this point, because it hasn't disqualified her in most voters' opinion. She has largely weathered the scandal because people are so tired of hearing about it over and over again. If she had never set up a personal server she would doubtlessly now be in a stronger political position, but the one she currently occupies is probably strong enough.

Republicans (and the media) have cried "Wolf!" on the email story so many times now -- with so little to show for it -- that the public seems on the verge of not paying much attention to any such cries in the future. Every time a supposed smoking gun is spotlighted, it never lives up to its billing. At some point, the frantic spotlighting ceases to draw a whole lot of attention. We seem to have reached that point. So while Hillary's problem has been pared down to two trigger words, seeing "Clinton Emails" headlines elicits no more than a shrug from most voters. The Republicans have, once again, overplayed the political hand they were dealt.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


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2020 Tokyo Olympics medals will be made from metals recovered from e-waste

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Wed, 2016-08-24 16:42
By reclaiming precious metals from its 'urban mine' of obsolete electronics, Japan may be able to produce the medals for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics from recycled materials.

Smartphone repair shops are taking over old British phone boxes

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Wed, 2016-08-24 10:24
The iconic red phone booths have been getting a variety of makeovers.

Re-purposing The Economy Can Help Stem The Tide of Terror

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-08-24 05:03
In the immediate aftermath of World War II the German state of Bavaria wrote a new constitution stating that all economic activity should serve the common good. This was a direct response to the fascism that triggered the war, the Great Depression that gave rise to fascism and the laissez-faire economic and financial system that brought on the Great Depression.

But Bavaria was no pioneer in advocating for the common good: promoting general welfare is one of the bases of the United States constitution, stated in the preamble.

Today, as we contemplate the terror and violence infecting our world from France, Brussels and Bangladesh to Orlando and Dallas, the parallel with the common good cannot be ignored. Over the last three decades, we have collectively failed to make promoting general welfare a priority, choosing instead to support globalized financial capitalism which aims to maximize opportunities for self-interested speculators eyeing profit, bonuses and privileges for large corporations and the global elite who control them -- the same set of elite that's prepared to wage war in order to the secure natural resources.

It's no secret that the winners have become more powerful and the losers have become ever more frustrated and disaffected.

To a certain extent, society can handle inequality and the resulting marginalization. But what about when that threshold is surpassed? As we are now witnessing, those who've been or who feel left behind, those who are left without without opportunities or hope, lash out with aggression and violence.

Thus, today, we are paying the price in fear and bloodshed of having forgotten the lessons embedded in the Second World War's inception.

But it's not too late. The growing outcry against inequality, the vociferous calls for fair trade instead of free trade and human rights instead of corporate rights as we've seen through the Bernie Sanders movement among others suggests that the tides can -- and may well -- change. It won't happen overnight, but with the right level of commitment to re-purposing our global economy through the following initiatives, we can help it take root:

  • A fundamental redefinition of economic success based on an organization's contribution to the common good.

  • To this end, the adoption of a "Common Good Balance Sheet" for transnational corporations as a condition for accessing global markets. A first attempt at proposing such guidelines was made in the early 2000s by the United Nations, which drafted the "Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights." This was rejected by business associations and western governments. Now, a better and already widely used instrument - the Common Good Balance Sheet - is available and with the right backing, could become legislation under international law.

  • The shifting of investment finance priorities from profit goals to common good goals drawing on The Common Good Balance Sheet.

  • The long-overdue fulfillment of the 0.7 target whereby 0.7% of rich countries respective GNPs would be donated to development assistance through the United Nations.

  • The payment by rich countries of their outstanding balances due to the United Nations.

  • A cap on the amount of private wealth that can be held by individuals.

  • The shifting of priorities from forging international trade deals favoring corporate profit over the welfare of all to taking joint initiatives that support global cooperation, solidarity, sustainability and peace work.

The challenge could not be bigger -- or more urgent. Corporations who view their primary responsibility as serving shareholders are the first who'll need to step up to the plate and consider what entrepreneurial strategies and forms of cooperation will help those who've been excluded from the global economy to find opportunities and their place within it. Governments will need to look at policy instruments such as the Common Good Balance Sheet to support an agenda of human welfare and development rather than a corporate bill of rights.

In sending a clear message through our actions that we're serious about focusing on a common good economy, on local development and sustainability, on fair trade and the strengthening of refugee, poverty reduction and peace programs, we will see the preachers of hatred, revenge and divide would lose their arguments and their targets one by one.

Christian Felber is founder of the The Economy For The Common Good based in Austria and the author of 15 books, including, most recently, Change Everything: Creating an Economy For The Common Good (Zed Books-UK, 2015; distributed in the U.S. by the University of Chicago Press).

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Right-Wing Radio Host Neal Larson Falls For Clickhole Story About Neil deGrasse Tyson

Huffingon Post Politics - Wed, 2016-08-24 03:00

A conservative radio host fell for a story about world-famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson that recently appeared on a parody website. 

Neal Larson of KID News Radio in Idaho Falls, Idaho, called Tyson a “horse’s astrophysicist” for supposedly mocking a 12-year-old girl who said she wanted to live on Jupiter. 

“He ridiculed her in the midst of a crowd, then later, several times, on Twitter,” Larson wrote in a column for the Times-News. “That told me everything I needed to know about Neil deGrasse Tyson.”

Just one problem: It never happened. 

The story Larson was referring to came from Clickhole, a satirical “clickbait” website run by The Onion, which itself operates on parody. 


Larson’s column ripping Tyson appeared on the Times-News website. The paper also published Tyson’s response setting the record straight on all of the factual errors Larson made. 

(h/t RawStory)

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I Will Still Love My Husband If He Votes For Donald Trump

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 23:59
Almost 18 years ago I was a liberal, vegetarian, bell-bottom-wearing college sophomore when I met my husband -- a young Republican Alex P. Keaton-type if Keaton was tall, blonde and a deer hunter. Election night 2000 stands out as an almost disastrous night in our relationship as we sat together, watching the election night returns and alternately fluctuating between elation and despair throughout the night as the outcome of the election swung back and forth.

Having learned our lesson, in the three subsequent elections we each calmly watch returns in different rooms of our home. We disclose campaign contributions to each other, always with the possibility of our joint bank account being used to fund two opposing campaigns. We never put out campaign signs (except for the occasional support of the Detroit Zoo) because, as we joke, we do not need to let the whole neighborhood in on our dysfunction. He has suggested more than once that we just stop voting so we do not spend time waiting in line just to cancel each other out, but as I get immense joy out of the experience of voting he begrudgingly shows up at the polls.

With the disclaimer that our state does not have registration by party affiliation and, even if it did, I am not sure either of us would choose to affiliation, we are an interparty marriage. Only nine percent of married couples are Republican-Democrat. But even in these divisive times, with rhetoric flying and a news cycle that seems to be accelerating faster than a boulder falling of a cliff, I love my husband and respect his right to cast his vote even if he decides to cast that vote for Donald Trump.

Suffice to say, #imwithher. But equally as importantly, I am against him. Since the reasons to be against Donald Trump have filled voluminous pages of this blog and elsewhere, I will summarize that my passion in life is improving Muslim-Jewish relations and Trump is antithetical to my understanding of my faith, my values and what it means to be an American. I think he is dangerous and bad for America. There are few superlatives that I would hesitate to use when talking about the destructiveness of Trump's candidacy. But I will not extend these superlatives to those who vote for Trump and -- in the end -- I might be married to one.

This election season, my friends, my colleagues, even my mother have come up to me with the whispered question, "Is your husband going to vote for Donald Trump?" The truthful answer: I don't know and I am not sure if he does either. Like many conservatives, he appears to be struggling between voting for a Republican candidate that does not represent his conservative political philosophies, voting for a third party candidate knowing that support may put a Democrat in the White House for another four years or just staying home, not voting and watching a rerun of South Park instead of the election returns.

When I admit that it is a possibility -- even a probability -- that my husband will vote for Trump, there is often a gasp or a head shake or a disapproving look followed by the sentiment that "I could never be married to someone that would vote for that man." And while I fully grasp revulsion at Trump's candidacy, it strikes me that when I pledged to love my husband in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer or all that other stuff, there was not an exception for the day there was a Republican candidate that I found really repulsive.

While it is beyond my abilities to explain why any person would vote for Trump, I recall back to a humiliating memory in my own life. In 2004, just weeks before the election, I was down in South Carolina at a friend's wedding. Afterwards, several of us were knocking back yet a few more cocktails and I got involved in a political conversation with a friend's boyfriend who belonged to a category of people that my closed-minded liberal self did not know existed - Gay Republicans.

I remember pressing him at length about his Republican identification. I was appalled that he could be faithful to a political party that rejected his civil rights. I questioned him not out of curiosity, but out of indignation and a false moral superiority that allowed me to weigh his conflicting values better than he could. Whether fuelled by this indignation or the cocktails, I kept going long passed the point where decency or common sense would have led me to change the topic.

In reality, the notion of thinking that my friend's boyfriend was some kind of anomaly was simply uneducated and I look back on my actions with a certain amount of shame. For many people, aspects of their political philosophies, cultural beliefs and identity may clash in a way that make choosing a candidate difficult. In 2004, 23 percent of the LGBT population voted for President Bush. This year, a poll showed that 11 percent of Muslims voted for Trump in the primaries and 14 percent of Hispanics may vote for Trump in the general election.

People are complicated and the factors that lead us to cast a vote are even more so. The coverage seems to place us neatly in boxes by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education but these are just statistics. Statistics are the business of pollsters, the lifeblood of campaigns and the source of a thousand news stories. But it is our life experience and beliefs and identity the mingle within us and help us determine which candidate to support. Just because someone comes to a different conclusion than us does not mean that there is nothing of value in that person and nothing we could have in common. In and of itself, it just means that we are casting votes for different candidates.

Every day, there are stories of people defriended over political views. While defriending in a social media context is easy enough, it is the defriending in real life that is more troubling. In this election cycle, rifts are placed in families and communities over support of a candidate. The rhetoric continues to increase in ways that do not serve our country -- from cries of locking her up to naked statutes of a candidate in parks. While we can all fingerpoint as to what has caused this political climate, the better question for each of us is whether we have become part of the problem?

To those that cannot believe that I love my conservative husband or that I could continue to do so even if he casts a vote for Donald Trump, do you really think I should get divorced because of a presidential vote? If you believe Fivethirtyeight.com (which I always do), 44.1 percent of this country will vote for Donald Trump. If you cannot fathom being married to one of them, being friends with one of them or being related to one of them, is it time to ask whether you are a part of the problem? Instead of blaming the divisiveness solely on either the Republican candidate or some amorphous "other" out there, perhaps it is time to look inside.

There is a line in The American President, "How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can't stand Americans?" In context, this is intended as a dig at conservatives but it seems like a claim that can be levelled at all of us.

In the past 18 years, I have learned a great deal from my conservative husband. I have come to appreciate the economic philosophies that he holds paramount when choosing candidates. I have come to appreciate that sometimes his conservatism relies on an innate belief in the goodness of people whereas sometimes my liberalism can veer dangerously into paternalism. Our disagreements sometimes strengthen my own views by cutting away the surface argument and getting to the core of my beliefs while other times I have seen my beliefs moderate when faced with compelling argument from him.

If we cut out those in our lives based on a vote, we will slowly whittle our own world to an echo chamber where everyone around us simply parrots back what we assume to be true about the world. I have no doubt that this is easier. I imagine it would be fun to spend election day either rejoicing or mourning with the person that I love most in the world. I imagine that it would be nice to be in the same room on election day.

But even this year, even with these stakes, even with offense I take at Donald Trump's words and actions, even when I genuinely fear for the safety of my Muslim brothers and sisters who are facing increased violence, I will not allow myself to give in and excise from my life those who balance their competing values differently than I balance mine. I believe that Donald Trump is dangerous for America, but I believe that letting Donald Trump divide us as Americans is even more dangerous. I fell in love with my husband almost 18 years ago and, whatever happens on November 8, I will still be in love with him. But I will not watch election returns in the same room as him.

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Congress must take action to block weapon sales to Saudi Arabia

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 23:38
Last week, the Pentagon announced the approval of the sale of an additional $1.15 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia. The callousness of this announcement - just days after Saudi Arabia rebooted its devastating bombing campaign in Yemen - is breathtaking. The Saudi-led coalition has used American-made fighter jets, bombs and other munitions in a relentless onslaught against Yemen that has left thousands of innocent civilians dead and created a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations characterizes as a "catastrophe." In just the last few days, the Saudi-led coalition has killed at least 35 people - most of them women and children - in three airstrikes against a school, a residential neighborhood and a hospital in northern Yemen.
Congress has thirty days to block the sale of these weapons. It is a moral imperative that they do so.

The internal crisis in Yemen spiraled out of control when the Saudis intervened in March 2015. The BBC has reported that nearly all of the more than 3,000 civilian deaths reported in the conflict have been caused by airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition. Saudi air strikes have also decimated Yemen's infrastructure, leaving more than 21 million people desperately in need of humanitarian assistance.
The Saudi aggression is only possible with U.S. weapons and logistical support. The U.S. government has authorized the sale of $20 billion of American-made weapons to the Saudis since their offensive began 18 months ago. Sen.Chris Murphy says this makes the U.S. complicit in a humanitarian crisis. "If you talk to Yemeni Americans, they will tell you in Yemen this isn't a Saudi bombing campaign, it's a U.S. bombing campaign," said Sen. Murphy. "Every single civilian death inside Yemen is attributable to the United States."

Given the devastation of the attack on Yemen, a diverse group of organizations and individuals have called on the U.S. government to stop the sale of additional weapons to Saudi Arabia. The United Nations has said that Saudi air strikes on civilian targets likely constitute war crimes. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for an end of all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia until the crisis is resolved. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy and Republican Sen.Rand Paul have both voiced concern over the new weapon sales, with Paul stating "Saudi Arabia is an unreliable ally with a poor human rights record. We should not rush to sell them advanced arms and promote an arms race in the Middle East."

Some would argue that the Saudis are a long-time stable ally in the turbulent Middle East. But to paraphrase the cliché, with allies like these, who needs enemies? Saudi Arabia is the number one exporter of radical Islamic extremism on the planet. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were radicalized Saudi citizens and the recently declassified "28 pages" showed that a Saudi intelligence officer supplied the men with money, housing and training to carry out their attack. The Saudis oppress religious minorities, women, LGBT people and dissidents, and dozens of non-violent participants in Arab Spring protests face or have been executed, usually by beheading. Yet the United States continues its unquestioning support of this repressive, totalitarian regime.

In approving the sale of these weapons, the Obama Administration has abdicated responsibility for ensuring that the United States is not complicit in war crimes. Now it is up to Congress to stop this ill-conceived arms deal from going through. For the sake of the millions of displaced Yemenis still suffering through air strikes and thousands more innocent civilians who could be slaughtered with these weapons, I'm pleading that they do so.

Medea Benjamin is the founder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange and the author of nine books, including the recently released Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection.

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Is It A Gift Or Is It A Bribe?

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 23:37
Co-authored by Marian Currinder, Policy Director for government accountability, Transparency International-USA.

In its McDonnell v. United States decision, a unanimous Supreme Court affirmed states' right to regulate "the permissible scope of interactions between state officials and their constituents." It is not the federal government's role, according to the Court, to set standards of "good government for local and state officials."

The Court's position on state sovereignty in the McDonnell decision is notable--and not just for the irony it presents. Had Virginia lawmakers put strict gift laws into effect years ago, the corruption case against former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell would have been much more straightforward. McDonnell might even have made different choices and avoided the corruption charges that effectively ended his public career.

McDonnell's predecessor, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, also accepted gifts during his tenure as Virginia's governor. The more than $160,000 in gifts that Kaine received over the course of his four-year term came from multiple individuals and companies, some with business before the state. But unlike McDonnell, Kaine disclosed all of the gifts he received in a timely manner; it wasn't until after he was selected as Hillary Clinton's running mate that these gifts received closer scrutiny.

The McDonnell and Kaine examples demonstrate why strict gift laws that go beyond simple disclosure are so necessary. When McDonnell and Kaine accepted gifts, Virginia law required them to disclose those gifts but placed no limits on what they could accept. Kaine, for example, was "gifted" $45,075 in political and campaign related travel expenses in 2008 when he was traveling the country to campaign for President Obama. And McDonnell accepted a Rolex watch, designer clothes, and catering costs for his daughter's wedding. All of these gifts were legal--as long as they were disclosed and there was no quid-pro-quo, where gifts were given in exchange for an official act.

In its McDonnell decision, the Court said it is not the federal government's role to set standards of good government for public officials. Citizens can voice dissatisfaction, as they did in the McDonnell case, and push for stricter laws but it's ultimately up to lawmakers to act. Given the Court's position that states are responsible for regulating the interactions between public officials and constituents, it's worth considering how states with weak ethics laws and/or histories of political corruption might handle this responsibility.

Many state gift laws are decidedly vague and this lack of clarity creates problems for public officials and prosecutors alike. Laws that exempt gifts from "personal friends," for example, let lawmakers decide whether the lobbyist who bought them a lavish meal or flew them to a conference is a personal friend or a lobbyist. And some states make no distinction between friends and lobbyists. Earlier this year, Missouri lawmakers failed to pass legislation banning gifts from lobbyists. This means that it's perfectly legal for lawmakers to, for example, "receive unlimited tickets to baseball games, concert tickets, spa services and steak dinners" from lobbyists.

New York, which last year held the distinction of "most corrupt state," has repeatedly failed to strengthen its ethics laws despite the recent federal convictions of its top legislative leaders. State lawmakers can accept gifts of any value as long as there is no intent to influence. The McDonnell decision highlighted how difficult it is for prosecutors to prove an official quid pro quo; perhaps it's no surprise, then, that New York politicians Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos have appealed their convictions based on the McDonnell ruling.

Pennsylvania received an F grade in a 2015 state integrity investigation, in part because of its notoriously lax gift laws. Lawmakers can accept gifts and hospitality as long as there is no explicit quid pro quo. If public officials accept gifts worth $250 or more, they are required to disclose. Last December, state Representative Louise Bishop resigned from office after admitting to accepting and not disclosing a gift worth $1,500. Bishop and five other state lawmakers were implicated in an undercover money-for-political-favors sting operation launched by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office. Despite 40 lawmakers and legislative aides being found guilty of public corruption in the past four decades, Pennsylvania lawmakers routinely fail pass stricter ethic rules.

These examples scratch the surface of what is a widespread problem. Gift rules that are riddled with loopholes and exceptions contribute to the perception--and sometimes the reality--of corruption. Whenever individuals, businesses, and organizations give gifts to elected officials, we should ask why.

And we should expect our leaders to answer honestly and comprehensively. Ethics laws should prohibit all public officials and their immediate family members from soliciting or accepting gifts over a nominal value. Laws should require timely disclosure of all gifts over a nominal value and make clear that quid pro quos are illegal. There should be no exemptions for gifts from "personal friends," as these friends may also have business before the state. Gift laws also should place restrictions on travel expenses and require disclosure of travel and expenses associated with "widely attended" events. Exempting travel and hospitality expenses simply because 20 or 25 people attend an event wrongly assumes that lawmakers can only be influenced in one-on-one scenarios. States should also ensure that there is even-handed and strict enforcement of ethics rules.

A review of state gift rules reveals that there are more exceptions than limits to the rules. The opposite should be true. In the absence of clear and comprehensive rules, too many lawmakers will opt to follow the custom rather than the law.

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Is UK's Jeremy Corbyn a Trotskyist? Seriously

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 23:34

[Kenneth Ackerman is the author of the new TROTSKY in NEW YORK, 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution.]

So you think American politics are nutty in this year of Donald Trump? Well, we are not alone. Take a look at someplace else in the world just as bad if not worse: Great Britain.

This year, Britain has not only given us its surprise vote last June to exit the European Union (known as "Brexit"), shocking financial markets, forcing out the country's Prime Minister David Cameron, and prompting its citizens to make "What is the European Union?" their most popular Google search the morning after they decided to leave it. But Britain has now gone further, reaching an ever deeper level of strangeness by wrapping its post-Brexit finger-pointing in a full-throated barrage of accusations over none less than Leon Trotsky, the famous co-leader of Russia's 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, assassinated in Mexico City in August 1940 on orders from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

How can anyone possibly connect Leon Trotsky, dead 76 years, to the political mess British voters have dug for themselves in 2016? Stay with me.

Here's how: Among other casualties of Britain's surprise vote to leave the European Union have been the out-of-power British Labor Party and its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a longtime Parliament member from North London. Following the embarrassing Brexit vote, Corbyn, like David Cameron, was widely criticized for ineffective leadership. As a result, party leaders demanded he step down from his leadership post, just as Cameron had done. Members of Corbyn's own Labor "shadow government" resigned in protest, and, in June, Labor members of the British Parliament voted "no-confidence" in Corbyn by 170 to 40, trying to force him out.

But Corbyn refused to quit. Among other things, Corbyn insisted he had a legitimate mandate from his party's members, having won his leadership post just recently in September 2015 with strong union backing and a 59 percent majority. And, he argued, no small cabal of parliamentarians should be able to overrule the members. Instead, he demanded a vote on his leadership from the full Party membership, which has now been approved and is expected in September.

The context quickly turned ugly, full of finger pointing and name calling, which is where Trotsky comes in. How on earth? Again, stay with me.

As Laborites prepared to vote, a question quickly arose: In this new contest for party leader, who exactly would count as a Labor Party "member" eligible to vote? Since Corbyn's election as leader in late 2015, membership had exploded. Nearly 180,000 had joined, including 130,000 since the Brexit vote, a huge increase over the party's earlier membership of 388,000 plus 150,000 affiliated supporters. Lawsuits were filed to prevent some of these new recruits from voting, but so far with mixed results.

And who are these new people suddenly joining the Labor Party, apparently planning to tip the vote for Corbyn? Finally, cue the organist. At least according to critics, some of them (gasp) were Trotskyists - extreme leftist followers of that same old Russian Leon Trotsky now conspiring to hijack the Labor Party for communism, revolution, atheism, and God knows what else.

This may sound like an odd flashback to old-style Cold War paranoia, what they used to call "Red baiting." But the man making this charge is none less than Tom Watson, the Labor Party's own deputy leader and a Corbyn opponent. "There are some old hands twisting young arms in this process, and I'm under no illusions about what's going on," Watson claimed in an interview with British reporters. "That's how Trotsky entryists operate."

Trotskyists? Or "Trots"? Or even worse, heaven forbid - "Trotsky entryists"? Like most conspiracy theories, this one turns out to have enough truth behind it to give it a grain of credibility. Corbyn, in fact, has a long leftist past. And Leon Trotsky too has had a strnog following around the world, including in Great Britain.

For those of you who may have lost track of the comings and goings of international communism since the fall of Soviet Russia in 1991, a quick aside: Yes, Leon Trotsky in 1917 co-founded the Russian Communist state along with Vladimir Lenin and other Bolsheviks of that era, served as its first Foreign Affairs Commissar, led the Red Army to victory in Russia's bloody 1918-1920 civil war, and helped create many of the regime's dictatorial institutions. [Frankly, I grew quite fond of him as a person writing my new book TROTSKY in NEW YORK, 1917, A Radical on the Eve of Revolution.]

But after Lenin's death in 1924, Trotsky lost a bitter power struggle to Joseph Stalin, who emerged as Soviet Russia's absolute dictator. Stalin expelled Trotsky from the country in 1929, killed thousands of Trotsky's followers, vilified Trotsky in a series of Moscow "show trials" during the 1930s, and ordered Trotsky's assassination in Mexico City in 1940.

Trotsky, meanwhile, became Stalinist Russia's harshest critic. Is a torrent of books, letters, and speeches, he blasted Stalin's dictatorship as a cancer on the workers' state and built a rival organization, the Fourth International, to promote communism free of Stalinism. He also spoke out against German fascism. As a result, Trotsky represented a historical alternative, the possibility that communist socialism could have worked and remains an option for radicals worldwide. Trotskyists, like Trotsky himself during his lifetime, reject parliamentary democracy in favor of worker-led revolution leading to overthrow of capitalism - but without the gulags and abuses.

In Britain, Trotskyism had a healthy following well into the 1980s, and Jeremy Corbyn, as a young union leader in North London in his 20s and 30s, found himself steeped in these leftist currents. In 1983, he publicly defended a Trotskyist group called the "Militant Tendency" against efforts by then-Labor leader Neil Kinnock to expel them. Then in 1988, as a back-bench Labor parliament member, Corbyn cosponsored a resolution calling on Soviet Russia to provide "complete rehabilitation" of Trotsky himself, saying:

"That this House [of Commons], in the light of the special conference of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in one week's time, and of the judicial rehabilitation of [other prominent early Bolsheviks including] Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek and Pyatakov, demands that the Russian Government goes further and gives complete rehabilitation to Leon Trotsky, Leon Sedov [Trotsky's son], the chief defendants in the [1938] Moscow frame-up trials, and all those innocent people murdered by the Stalin regime."

Corbyn has consistently represented a progressive wing within the Labor Party. During the 1990s, he frequently opposed then-Leader Tony Blair's more-moderate New Labor. When Corbyn finally won the party's leadership in September 2015, his was widely viewed a victory of the Left.

Which bring us to today. There are plenty of reasons for British Laborites to dislike Jeremy Corbyn. Some consider him too leftist, some not leftist enough. Others consider him simply incompetent. And yes, political name-calling has a long tradition in Britain just like America. But seriously, is Jeremy Corbyn a Trotskyist? Obviously not. As a Trotskyist, he would not be head of the British Labor Party. Rather, he would be trying to overthrow it.

Are some of Corbyn's followers Trotskyists? Probably. But not many. The popularity of revolutionary Trotskyism in Great Britain peaked thirty years ago. There are hardly enough true active Trotskyists left there today to overthrow the Falkland Islands, let alone the government of Great Britain.

The fact is, in Britain and America both, large numbers of people today are highly dissatisfied with the status quo and are insisting on drastic change. In America, they have fueled the campaigns of Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left, and in Britain many flocked to support Brexit. That flood of new Labor Party members is no different. Yes, they are leftists, but they don't need an old-timer like Leon Trotsky to lead them. They are a new generation with its own voice.

The issues facing Britain (and America) today have nothing to do with poor Leon Trotsky. Leave him alone and let him stand on his own two feet. The fact that the British Labor Party has allowed its leadership contest to descend to this kind of name-calling and finger-pointing is just one more sign of how unhinged this year has become. Welcome to 2016.

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Stanley Majors Charged With Murder And Hate Crimes In Killing Of Khalid Jabara

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 20:43

An Oklahoma man was charged with murder and hate crimes Tuesday after police said he terrorized his Arab-American neighbors for years and finally shot 37-year-old Khalid Jabara to death.

Stanley Vernon Majors, 61, who was freed on bail three months ago on charges he ran over Jabara’s 65-year-old mother with his car, was accused of gunning down Jabara on Aug. 12 outside the family’s home in Tulsa. He was charged with first-degree murder, felony possession of a firearm after a conviction, and misdemeanor charges of threatening a violent act and malicious intimidation as a hate crime.  

The hate crime charge alleges that Majors threatened the Jabara family from July 2013 until the day of the killing “with specific intent to intimidate and harass because of race, color, religion, ancestry and national origin.”

Majors sent threatening voicemails and emails, the family said, and called them ethnic slurs, including “dirty Arabs,” “Aye-rabs,” and “Mooslems.” The Jabaras, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon in the early 1980s, are Christian.

“Fuck you Arabs, Fuck you bastards,” Majors told the family, according to a statement Jabara’s sister, Victoria Jabara Williams, posted on Facebook. “I want to kill you all.”

The family took out a protective order against Majors, but in September 2015, Majors hit Jabara’s 65-year-old mother, Haifa Jabara, with a car, nearly killing her, police said. Afterward, Majors reportedly described the Jabara family to a police officer as “filthy Lebanese” who “throw gay people off roof tops” ― possibly a reference to ISIS propaganda videos of the terror group doing just that.  

Majors admitted to the hit-and-run and was jailed on a charge of assault and battery with a deadly weapon to await trial. In May, District Judge William LaFortune disregarded a plea from the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office that Majors be jailed until his trial and released him on $60,000 bond. 

Three months later, Jabara, who lived with his parents, called 911 to report that someone was tapping on the windows of his family’s house. He called 911 again to report learning from Majors’ husband, Stephen Schmauss, that Majors was armed with a gun and had fired a shot inside the couple’s house.

Responding police got no answer at Majors’ house, so they left. Eight minutes later, Jabara walked onto his front porch and was hit by bullets from a high-caliber handgun. 

Jabara’s family, in a statement Tuesday, applauded the DA’s office for “marshaling the full weight of law to respond appropriately to the heinous crime inflicted upon us.”

“Our parents raised us to be patriotic Americans, proud of our Lebanese heritage and our community’s contributions to our country,” the family said. “In charging Majors with a hate crime in addition to first degree murder, the
district attorney’s office is making a much-needed and powerful statement that hatred and violence based on race, color, religion, ancestry, and national origin has no place in our society.”

The slaying comes amid a surge in crimes targeting Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim. A report released earlier this year by Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative found that there were more acts of anti-Muslim violence and vandalism in 2015 than in any year since the Sept. 11 attacks. The Huffington Post has recorded more than 230 acts of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and political speech in the U.S. this year.

Jabara’s family ― father Mounha, mother Haifa, brother Rami, and sister Victoria ― said Tuesday that the legal system had “proved insufficient” in protecting “our beloved Khalid and our mother” despite “overwhelming evidence” of a “palpable threat of danger and hate facing us on a daily basis.” 

Jabara’s sister-in-law, Jenna Jabara, explained to Talking Points Memo that the family lived in “constant fear” after Majors was released from jail. 

“There was no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing, no restrictions on travel, no requirements to check-in with police or appear upon demand, no restrictions on driving, no vehicle breathalyzer, basically unconditional freedom,” Jenna Jabara said. 

A clerk for the judge who allowed Majors’ release on bond told KOKI that “he is not allowed to comment on a case,” and pointed out that the judge did double the bond to $60,000 “pursuant to state’s motion.” 

The DA’s motion asked for a minimum bond of $300,000, arguing that Majors had demonstrated a “wanton disregard for the life” of Haifa Jabara and was a “substantial risk to the public.” 

It was unclear Tuesday if Majors had legal representation. His attorney in the hit-and-run case, Marvin Lizama, did not respond to a request for comment. 

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For These Louisiana Flood Victims, The Struggle Has Just Begun

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 20:33

Thousands of Louisiana residents lost everything in the floods, and their suffering will go on long after the camera crews and rescue boats have departed.

More than 100,000 people or households in the state have applied for housing help, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reports. Rising waters washed away their homes, their cars, their medicines, their family heirlooms and keepsakes ― most of the tangible pieces of their lives. The floods left behind memories of fear and profound uncertainty about the future.

Here are the stories of some of those people.

Jay Reynolds

For Jay Reynolds, 56, floods make for a special kind of misery.

“A flood is cruel,” the lifelong Holden, Louisiana, resident said. “If your home burns down to the ground, you have nothing left. You walk up there and it’s a pile of burnt rubble. There’s no pictures to look at and nothing to dig through. ... With a flood, it’s so much more cruel. Everything you had is ruined and you can see every picture of your family and children smeared and ruined. Everything you had is still there, but it’s useless ― every bit of it. It’s cruel. I think I would have rather been wiped out by a fire.”

Jay, a shift worker at methanol distributor Methanex, and his wife Tammy, a beautician and beauty shop owner, built their home in 1985. It’s one of more than 60,000 houses destroyed by the August floods. 

“I’m trying hard not to cry right now,” he said.

Among the most painful losses are the many pieces of wood furniture that Reynolds handcrafted and hoped to pass down for generations. 

“The bed my daughter slept on – I built it when she was 8 years old,” he said. “I spent weeks building that bed. I handcrafted it and she planned to give it to her child.”

As he grapples with the emotional turmoil, Reynolds has been overcome by the generosity of his community. Methanex sent 13 of its employees to help gut his house ― a painful but necessary exercise ― and he hasn’t had to cook since losing his home thanks to meal providers like Operation BBQ Relief.

“It’s been really tough, but we’ll get through this,” he said. “We will claw our way back. We will not be devastated by this the rest of our lives.”

Herbert ‘Shorty’ Howard McMorris

“They call me Shorty,” said Herbert Howard McMorris. At only 4 feet tall, the retired Livingston Parish resident had less time than most to reach safety when he noticed that the 7-foot sunflower in his backyard was suddenly only 3 feet tall. Seconds later, the flower was completely submerged. 

“The water was bubbling right next to my mouth,” the 76-year-old said of his attempt to flee on foot with his wife Cynthia, 70, and their dog. “That’s how deep it was and how close to death I was. ... I was starting to drown and I thought maybe the Lord was coming to get me.”

In that moment, a man “like an angel” saw them and got them into a boat, McMorris said. Eventually, Morris was transported to a hospital without his wife of 53 years. He wouldn’t see her or the dog again for five days, when he also learned that they’d lost everything. 

They don’t know what’s next. 

“We don’t have a home no more and we don’t have any kids,” he said. “Most people got kids and family that can help them. We got nothing. If we don’t get help, we won’t make it. We don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Della Mcarter

The odyssey on which Della Mcarter, 42, embarked to reach her three younger children was marked by the kindness of strangers.

“This has actually made me love Louisiana even more – the way people have come together to help people they don’t even know,” said the mother of six, three of whom are grown. 

Mcarter has lived in Walker, Louisiana, for 12 years. She was staying at a hotel recently while preparing for a move to Denham Springs ― although that plan now seems doubtful since an estimated 90 percent of structures in the city were affected by the floods. 

When the water started rising, Mcarter went to retrieve her dog from a friend while her daughters, ages 14 and 8, and son, age 4, waited at the hotel. She didn’t realize that by the time she tried to return, the road to the hotel would be submerged underwater and all communication with her kids would be cut off. 

“I was terrified,” Mcarter said. “The phone lines were down and I couldn’t call them.”

First, some people offered her a rowboat, but the current was too strong. Then, a man with a motorboat attempted to take her up the road, but the motor broke. Another man, who was using his boat to rescue dogs, took her as far as he could. Finally, she got out and swam the rest of the way to the hotel. 

“We were on the second floor of the hotel and when I got there, the water was halfway up the first floor and my truck was underwater,” Mcarter said. “When I got upstairs, I found out two guys had helped my kids. They made sure they had food and water and watched over them. I felt so blessed.”

She and her kids are at a shelter now, waiting to meet with FEMA.

“They promised all our needs would be taken care of, so I feel like they’re going to help me,” she said. 

Gerald and Cris Burkins

High school sweethearts Cris Burkins, 45, and husband Gerald, 46, will celebrate their 29th wedding anniversary this week from a Denham Springs shelter. It’s their home until further notice.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen now,” she said. “This is our life right now. We’ve lost everything. It’s all gone. We have nothing.”

The mother of eight children, ranging in age from 19 to 28, said that after the flood took their home in Walker, the family sought refuge under the roof over a gas pump and in a church. The Red Cross placed them in their current shelter. 

She wonders when her grandkids will be able to go back to school, how much money FEMA will give them, how they’ll find a new house when everyone else is looking for one too, and whether they should look for a new home in Louisiana at all.

“I’m afraid we’ll get back on our feet again and rebuild and then another flood will come,” she said. “I’m scared to live here. We’ve talked about moving to Mississippi or Alabama. We’re afraid Louisiana is going down – it’s sinking.”

The stress of escaping the flood themselves and wondering whether loved ones were alive is a horror that Gerald Burkins won’t soon forget. 

“I’ve never seen so many traumatizing things in such a short period of time,” he said. “We had our grandbabies there. Pretty much the whole first day I held our 1-year-old grandchild up when helicopters flew over, so they knew we needed help. Not one came.”

They spent that day without food or water and agonizing over a text from his father ― who would be rescued the following morning ― that said, “911 help, please help.”

Police and official rescue personnel weren’t able to help his family, he said, but community members stepped up. 

“The citizens are the true heroes here,” Burkins said. “They really are. It didn’t matter what color you were or whether you spoke English or not. Everybody took care of everybody. Yesterday, a snowball truck came to the shelter. All the adults broke down crying just to see somebody cared and the kids was so happy.”

Johnnie Bell Allen

Johnnie Bell Allen, 51, is trying to focus on what she didn’t lose: her life and her family. 

“I know we lost a lot, but we still have our lives,” the Denham Springs waitress said. “We came into this world with nothing and we’ll leave it with nothing. I can only thank God we’re all alive.”

She and her husband Jeff, 50, have seven kids between them and were looking after their six grandchildren, ages 1 to 9, when the water started coming up. They waited awhile for police and then tried to escape by car. When the car began filling with water, they had no choice but to walk to safety with all six grandkids.

“We prayed while we were going through the waters,” Allen said. “We had a real chance of losing our lives. We had got some rope and tied the kids to us so the current wouldn’t take them away.”

With all their possessions gone, Allen thinks it might be time to start over somewhere new. 

“My husband, Jeff, wants to stay in Louisiana, but I don’t want to,” she said. “I want to move to Florida or Oklahoma.”

Thomas Anthony

Thomas Anthony, 52, his wife and family had just moved back into their house three weeks ago after completing a total remodel. Both his house and his repair shop in Holden were flooded with 4 feet of water.

“Can’t nobody explain the feeling when you wake up in the morning and have nothing left,” the father of four children said. 

“We got to start all over again. It’s rough,” said Anthony. “I want to go help other people, but I got so much to do myself. We don’t even have a place to sleep. It’s hard. It ain’t like we can just walk away from it. We got to clean it all up and take it day by day. It’s hard, but like I told my wife, what else we going to do? We just gotta keep going.”

Brent Kinchen

Brent Kinchen, 37, was supposed to start a new job last week after being unemployed since June. Losing everything has put that on hold.

The Denham Springs pipe fabricator was with his mother and 11-year-old daughter when some 6 to 7 feet of water poured into his house. 

“I can’t do nothing now but just sit back, take it in and endure until we can get the assistance we need to get back to a regular life,” he said.

Kinchen is especially worried about his mom, who is ill and lost all her medications in the flood.

“Seeing her struggling and dealing with all this stress is the hardest part,” he said. “But life still goes on. We’re gonna rebuild and regain the things we lost. I just gotta stay focused on getting back on my feet.”

Debra Cobb

Debra Cobb, a lifelong Louisianan, believes the floods were “a message from God” to bring the community together. 

“That’s the way I feel,” said the Denham Springs resident. “Look at how people coming together and things like that. Love one another. Help one another.”

Cobb, the 51-year-old mother of three grown sons, is disabled and lives with one of her granddaughters. When her house was inundated, she tried to escape by car but was soon chest-deep in water. Eventually she boarded a rescue boat. 

“It is a disaster, losing your home and transportation,” she said. “It’s hard, but what can we do? We just got to be patient and hang in there.”

Cobb hopes the people of Louisiana will stick together after the waters recede.

“I see that the community has come closer together,” she said. “I just hope it don’t stop. I hope it continues. That’s what we all must do. Don’t just do it because of the flood.”

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CIA Psychologists Sue CIA For Documents To Prove Torture Program Wasn't Their Idea

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 20:08

WASHINGTON ― The two CIA-contracted psychologists accused of crafting the spy agency’s so-called “enhanced interrogation program” filed a motion to compel the U.S. government to turn over documents they requested so they can defend themselves in a separate lawsuit brought forth by survivors of the torture program.

The motion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday, alleged that the CIA and Justice Department had been uncooperative in supplying James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen with “documents critical to their defense.”

Their request is related to a separate ongoing lawsuit in Spokane, Washington, where the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of three former CIA detainees, is suing Jessen and Mitchell for their alleged role in creating and implementing an interrogation program that used techniques now considered to be torture.

The pair was hired by the CIA as contractors in 2002, as the agency was rounding up individuals suspected of having ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban and interrogating them in secret black sites around the world. Jessen and Mitchell’s company ultimately collected $81 million for their work.

The two psychologists have argued that they should have immunity from prosecution over the enhanced interrogation program because it was authorized by the executive branch during a time of war.

Mitchell and Jessen initially sought to have the lawsuit against them thrown out ― which is what has happened with past attempts to hold the CIA legally responsible for its torture program. But Senior Judge Justin L. Quackenbush of the Eastern District of Washington ruled in April that the case would continue and ordered both sides to begin discovery, the process of exchanging evidence before trial.

That’s where Mitchell and Jessen ran into problems.

According to the motion filed Monday, the subpoenas they submitted to the CIA and DOJ in June requested approximately 30 categories of documents. Back-and-forth correspondence between the government and lawyers for Mitchell and Jessen follows the same pattern, the motion alleged: “The Government claiming that it wants to provide Defendants with information, but is unsure how it can provide such information or when.”

The government has said that the psychologists’ request is overly vague and burdensome, ostensibly because of classification issues in documents related to the CIA’s now-defunct torture program.

In lieu of providing Mitchell and Jessen with the documents they have requested, the government has proposed “alternative and creative options,” the motion said. One option proposed by the CIA is to provide an anonymous witness who could answer questions in writing that could be used in court about the duo’s role in the torture program.

Lawyers representing Mitchell and Jessen rejected that option, “in part, because of the uncertain evidentiary value of such an affidavit and deposition,” the motion said. 

The court in Spokane, where the torture victims are suing Mitchell and Jessen, has set a discovery deadline of Feb. 17, 2017, although a list of expert witnesses and trial witnesses is due at the end of the year. The case is scheduled to go to trial next June.

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The Safety of Your Financial Future May Depend on... What is about to Happen to Dodd-Frank

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 19:58
In recent months, a number of Republicans have distanced themselves from a bombastic Trump campaign.(The party itself appears to be focusing on down-ballot races.) But apart from Presidential maneuvering, one issue is reverberating through every splinter of the GOP - the goal of repealing Dodd-Frank. This legislation is the centerpiece of the Obama Administration's banking regulations after the 2008 financial crisis, and dismantling it tops the GOP's to-do list.

While it's been eight years since the market crash and the Great Recession, the $700 billion banks bailout (a number not even including the funds borrowed from the Federal Reserve), alongside devastating unemployment numbers and the billions in lost personal savings are far from forgotten. Most Americans support laws such as Dodd- Frank; they applaud measures to prevent Great-Depression-like economic catastrophes. But some Republican candidates and lawmakers, like Senator Jeb Hensarling, (R) Texas, see Dodd-Frank, in contrast, as a step towards complete government control of "capital markets". Hensarling has announced a plan to help "relieve financial institutions from regulations that create more burden than benefit." He told the Washington Free Beacon, "[The Republican] reform plan allows banks to opt into an alternative regime." His plan is supplemented by the proposed bill below, Senator Rand Paul's S226-114 Executive Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015.

Does the thought of freeing up the financial sector from the basic regulations put in place by Dodd-Frank, makes you scratch your head-- or even feel nervous?

It should. The banking and finance industry enjoyed freedoms -- including freedom from scrutiny that led some insiders to commit fraud -- that seem to come at the expense of everyday people. Meanwhile, the government has many priorities that come before imposing basic accountability measures.

At the least, Dodd-Frank provides a fairer legal platform for consumers than before it existed; it is called the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. This agency, championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, is in place to save victims of predatory and fraudulent banking millions in fees that would otherwise be imposed on them while fighting corporate legal teams. Another important pro-consumer piece of legislation is the Volker rule, which prevents banks from making risky bets with large amounts of consumer's money.

The Republicans wish to do away with both of these. Their proposed plan allows large banks to opt out of capital and liquidity requirements -- which require banks to actually have real dollars on hand when you go there. And one of the most telling points in the Republican plan is its effort to prevent financial agencies from designating non-banks as "systematically important". This countermeasure comes as courts have begun to attack the use of the term "too big to fail" as a legislative label.

Whom are these proposed changes for? Are they for the many who lost hard-fought life savings in plans that had been deemed safe, or for the young people in the workforce looking to secure a financial future? Probably not. While the likelihood of such destructive legislation passing is low, 'finance reform' is a key issue on the campaign trail on both sides of the struggle. The last Clinton in the Whitehouse signed a repeal of Glass-Steagle, a bill that had prohibited commercial banks from engaging in the investment business. The 2016 Clinton camp now wants to "update and modernize" Glass Steagle. In banking, even small changes mean huge business. For both parties, the shaping of laws that control banking, are central in the days and months ahead. Citizens need to keep a watchful eye on these bills and use the BillCams to inform and alert their neighbors and let elected officials know that these deals won't take place in the dark.

The world of derivatives and black boxes can seem murky and convoluted, but when it's everyday Americans' money and credit being packaged off to the highest bidder, everyday Americans face the consequences. We can't allow the battle between corporations out for higher profits and autonomy to become political at our expense. A lack of accountability caused the meltdown; Dodd-Frank provided some basic accountability in an industry that requires scrutiny to protect ordinary people. Basic regulation via government does not threaten to implode the finance sector. The road to a stable banking systems is made of rules, not the chaos of unlimited freedoms. Balancing risk and recklessness in banking is not "Wolf of Wall Street" exciting, but it is necessary. Use the BillCam to express your view of this potent, impactful bill, and vote 'no' -- and tweet the bill sponsor and your rep -- if you want to keep basic regulations in place.

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Aide Explains How Donald Trump Will Carry Out His Deportation Plans

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 19:30

For all that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has talked about immigration, the specifics of his deportation policies can be difficult to parse. The biggest question: Trump has said he wants to “round up” and deport all undocumented immigrants, but how, exactly, would he do it, if at all?

Trump will lay out more details of his immigration policies soon, according to campaign officials. But in response to The Huffington Post’s questions, a campaign aide offered one of the most detailed explanations to date about what a Trump administration immigration enforcement regime might look like.

The aide argued that Trump has never actually advocated for the type of large-scale raids that come to mind when people hear the words “mass deportation” or remarks about “rounding up” undocumented immigrants.

“He’s said many times that he’s not talking about mass deportation,” said the aide, who asked not to be identified to speak about the issue in depth. “What he’s talking about is enforcing the law of the land. If you come into contact with a federal immigration officer in the course of the lawful exercise of their duties, that immigration officer is legally and duty-bound to carry out a legal proceeding and issue a notice to appear.

“It’s never been the case that to effectuate a sound, lawful immigration system that you would need to rely exclusively on immigration raids, or whatever it may be,” the aide said.

Trump’s first priority, the aide said, would instead be deporting criminals, gang members and security threats. Trump has often referenced them as “the bad ones.” On Monday, he promised to deport this group “so fast your head will spin.”

As for the rest, Trump has said, “we’re going to go through the process like they are now, perhaps with a lot more energy, and we’re going to do it only through the system of laws.”

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A position that emphasizes deporting the bad apples of the undocumented population while figuring out a way to sift through those remaining, is both broad and, generally speaking, what the Obama administration already does. The administration says it focuses removal efforts on criminals, recent border-crossers and national security threats.

So are Trump and Obama now in the same place? Not quite.

The differences are visible in what priorities are applied to the sifting and the level of resources brought to bear. Trump seems to acknowledge the need for prioritization by saying he would focus swift deportation efforts on a specific subset of undocumented immigrants. As for resources, his campaign aide said he would push for more immigration judges and enforcement agents, but it’s unlikely that Congress would fund the number needed for immediate deportation of all undocumented immigrants.

Where Obama and Trump also differ is that Trump would eliminate the Obama policies that create what the campaign aide said is an “immunity blanket for ... 99 percent of the illegal immigrant population.” That includes the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that allows undocumented young people who came to the U.S. to stay on a temporary basis, but also lesser-known policy memos that discourage officers from pursuing deportation against some individuals who they encounter and deem low priority.

Trump’s aide indicated that he would have a broader definition of high priority than either Obama or Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, noting that some people who have been released because they committed low-priority offenses have gone on to commit serious crimes.

The idea would be to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and border patrol agents to do their jobs “free from political interference and bureaucratic interference,” the aide said.

Undocumented immigrants would be detained during deportation proceedings if they were considered dangerous, a flight risk, or had been recently apprehended at the border, the aide said. This is not all that different from current policy, although Trump has proposed tougher treatment of the women and children apprehended at the southern border, most of them claiming fear of deportation to their native countries. He has said they would face mandatory detention and expedited deportation.

The undocumented immigrants who do not fit that category would not be detained, Trump said on Monday. “You don’t have to put them in a detention center,” he told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly when asked if he would take people from their homes and put them in facilities.

Comments like these have led to accusations that Trump is softening the hard-line stance that won him the Republican primary. For example, Trump had proposed “rounding ‘em up” ― which certainly suggests some form of holding center prior to deportation proceedings ― and even tweeted what seemed to be approval of the concept of mass deportations (just not the phrasing).

I have never liked the media term 'mass deportation' -- but we must enforce the laws of the land!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2016

Trump’s campaign aide said that O’Reilly’s question about putting all undocumented immigrants in detention centers was a hypothetical based on something Trump has never proposed. The aide argued that whether Trump’s policies amount to “mass deportation” or “rounding up” undocumented immigrants is a matter of opinion.

“You and others, and people in the advocacy community, may use the term ‘round up’ or ‘mass deportation’ to describe removing any large number of people under any circumstance,” the aide said.

In the end, this has always been the difficulty with interpreting Trump’s immigration comments ― they sound different to different people because they’re vague. Anti-amnesty supporters applauded him for saying undocumented immigrants “have to go,” but Trump has also carved out wiggle room by suggesting he won’t deport everyone immediately. He did as much on Tuesday, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity that “there certainly can be a softening” in his position while, moments later, stressing, “We are going to follow the laws of this country.”

And, of course, everything could change the next time Trump speaks on the topic. He has a penchant for improvising policy.

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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Court: Residency In Marijuana Legal State Not Justification For Police Search

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 19:14

By Jonathan Stempel

A federal appeals court on Tuesday said police officers cannot stop and search vehicles belonging to out-of-state motorists simply because of where they reside, including states where marijuana use is legal.

By a 2-1 vote, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver said two Kansas Highway Patrol officers violated the constitutional rights of Colorado motorist Peter Vasquez in December 2011 by pulling him over and searching his car after he had been driving alone at night on Interstate 70.

The officers relied heavily on Vasquez’s residency to justify the search, which uncovered nothing illegal, saying Colorado was a known “drug source” where marijuana is legal.

But the court said that would justify searching motorists from the 25 U.S. states that permit marijuana use for medical purposes, and the four states, including Colorado, plus Washington, D.C., where recreational use is allowed.

“It is time to abandon the pretense that state citizenship is a permissible basis upon which to justify the detention and search of out-of-state motorists, and time to stop the practice of detention of motorists for nothing more than an out-of-state license plate,” Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero wrote.

“Absent a demonstrated extraordinary circumstance, the continued use of state residency as a justification for the fact of or continuation of a stop is impermissible,” he added.

The decision revived Vasquez’s civil lawsuit seeking damages from officers Richard Jimerson and Dax Lewis for violating his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches. A lower court judge had dismissed the case in November 2014.

Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich dissented, saying the case was a “close call” but that reasonable officers might have thought Vasquez’s travel plans suspicious and the search acceptable.

Jennifer Rapp, a spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, said he intends to ask the entire appeals court to review the panel’s decision.

Vasquez, now 37, said in a telephone interview that the decision shows that “police officers shouldn’t be able to do whatever they want” because they wear badges.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Vasquez, who now lives in San Antonio.

The 10th Circuit decision applies in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

The case is Vasquez v Lewis et al, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-3278.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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Political Campaigns And Student Debt

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 19:03
Wealthy people gain political influence by making large campaign contributions. The opposite is also true. Those who do not fund office-seekers can expect to be disregarded at decision-making time.

This political precept is particularly applicable when it comes to young people and students.

Survey data do not exist to indicate how much money young people contribute to political campaigns. But we do know that far fewer of them make contributions of any size than is the case for older people. In 2012 (the last year for which data are available) 7 percent of people 21 years or younger donated to political campaigns. That percentage for people older than 21 was more than double - 15 percent.

With that the case, it is not surprising that issues of importance to those under 21 will be neglected. Because students do not provide campaign funds, support by state and local governments for something very important to them - higher education - is accorded a low priority. During the recent recession, funds for higher education were drastically cut. Even today, after some recovery has occurred, state spending per student is 18 percent lower than it was at the beginning of the recession.

It might be argued that this decline is a short-term phenomenon associated with the near collapse of the economy. But the fact is that the retreat from public support for higher education predates the economic downturn. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that "in 1988, public colleges and universities received 3.2 times as much revenue from state and local government as they did from students. They now receive about 1.2 times as much from states and localities as from students." (1)

The immediate victims of the decline in government support for higher education are of course young people who want to go to college but who struggle to pay their tuition. Evidence of their difficulty is found in the heavy level of debt that burdens college graduates. Today 60 percent of graduates from public four-year institutions carry an average debt level of $25,500. Student debt totals $1.23 million, more than car loans and credit card debt combined.

What is not included in this picture of increasing financial pressure on young people and their families is the number of students who opt out of higher education altogether in order to avoid indebtedness. One study on this subject estimates that there is a one percent decrease in enrollment for every $400 increase in tuition at public institutions.

All of this reflects students' lack of political clout. But students are not alone. Any group that is not a major source of campaign funding lacks a powerful voice in politics and policy-making. Office holders need money to win elections, and those who provide big donations expect, and do, receive more favorable treatment than those who do not.

Inequality, and therefore injustice, is inherent in a privately funded political system like ours. Few have the ability to become big-time campaign donors. As a result, few see their interests at the top of the political agenda. Unless we adopt an alternative to private donations as the way to fund campaigns, we are stuck with a political process that is systemically unfair.

There is an alternative and more egalitarian way of paying for political campaigns. If candidates for office, having established their seriousness, were provided with public funding from government tax revenues, they would no longer be beholden to private funders. They could evaluate and act on policies without having to consider whether the positions they adopt might offend a rich donor, and thereby jeopardize their chances for election or reelection.

In such a setting we would have a real democracy. Policy positions would be debated on their merits rather than being considered through the prism of self-interested wealthy individuals.

To avoid first amendment complications, this system would have to be voluntary. It would also have to be generous. There is no point in adopting a structure that does not provide enough money for a publicly funded candidate to run a viable campaign. But with adequate funding, a candidate would be provided with a ready-made argument against his or her opponent: "I represent all the people while my opponent represents his or her funders."

In a publicly funded democracy, students would be able to make the case for more government investment in education, and do so as equals with those who seek cutbacks. They might not win, but their concerns would at least be given a fair hearing.

In fact, in an unbiased system, students and their families probably would win. In a world of increasing economic competition, raising the level of the educational attainment of young Americans is necessary for the future prosperity of our country. We should be making it easier to secure higher education, rather than as at present, making it more difficult.

With a privately funded political system, this obvious way to strengthen the United States economy gets lost in the rush for campaign donations.

(1) This quotation and all of the data on education in this essay come from Michael Mitchell, Michael Leachman and Kathleen Masterson, "Funding Down, Tuition Up: State Cuts to Higher Education Threaten Quality and Affordability at Public Colleges," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Updated August 15, 2016.

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Soldiers Added Hillary Clinton To A Poster Of Security Threats

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 18:34

So a couple of Army soldiers thought it was brilliant to spice up a training graphic by adding Hillary Clinton’s photograph to a chart warning about the misuse of classified material.

Nobody outside of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, would ever see it, they may have thought when they began using it 18 months ago. The graphic showed “insider” security threats: Clinton, National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, convicted terrorist shooter Nidal Hasan, and court-martialed Army soldier Chelsea Manning.

Possibly not the best idea they ever came up with.

Inevitably, of course, a fuzzy photo of the graphic found its way outside Fort Leonard Wood, where the Army provides basic soldier training and advanced training for military police, and into the civilian world. There, of course, Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president and enmeshed in an election-year scandal over her handling of classified emails when she was secretary of state.

On Sunday, the graphic was published by The Daily Caller. Very soon after that, it caught the attention of Headquarters, Department of the Army, housed in the Pentagon.

On Monday, the graphic was deleted from the training material at Fort Leonard Wood. And by Monday evening, Maj. Thomas Campbell, spokesman for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, had a terse statement for reporters.

The training material was used to teach “best practices for handling classified material and maintaining operational security,” Campbell said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post. He said the material had not been “reviewed or approved” by the Army and “does not reflect the position of the Army.”

No word on the fate of the soldiers who wanted only to make people pay more attention to an otherwise routine training slide ― and succeeded beyond their wildest imaginings.

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GOP Lawmaker, Already Punished For Claiming Parents' Money As His Own, Does It Again

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 18:22

WASHINGTON ― Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson when it comes to claiming his parents’ money as his own.

Guinta admitted in a 2015 Federal Election Commission document that he had accepted excessive contributions from his parents via a family fund during his 2010 campaign for Congress. He agreed to repay the money  ― which, despite the FEC conciliation agreement and a public apology at odds with the facts of the case, he still contends was his ― and he paid a $15,000 fine.

Now Guinta is going a step further. In his latest financial disclosure, obtained first by the Union Leader, Guinta is once again claiming the $355,000 he paid back, ostensibly to his parents, is actually his own asset.

“Rather than refunding the $355,000 in illegal excessive contributions Frank Guinta received from his parents back to his parents, he has instead kept the money himself,” Fergus Cullen, former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, alleges in a letter to the FEC.

“It was plainly not the Commission’s intent for Guinta to keep the money personally or recycle the illegal excessive contribution he received from his parents back into his campaign committee a second time. Indeed, Guinta is thumbing his nose at the Commission,” Cullen wrote.

Cullen told The Huffington Post on Tuesday that he believes the FEC made a mistake in not specifying that Guinta had to repay his parents. “It says refund the money, but it doesn’t specify who the money needs to be refunded to,” Cullen said.

But Guinta’s campaign manager, Jay Ruais, told HuffPost that Guinta has done “exactly” what was required of him.

“To suggest anything else is simply inaccurate,” Ruais said. “The loan was refunded to the Guinta Family Fund on which he has been a signatory since 2010, along with his parents. Not a single thing has changed. Granite Staters recognize this, and no amount of politically charged complaints or opinions can change these facts.”

Ruais told HuffPost on Tuesday that Guinta had made documents available to reporters in 2010 showing that over the years, Guinta had contributed more than the $355,000 he drew from the account in 2010. Ruais declined to share those documents with HuffPost.

But this isn’t exactly a he-said, she-said situation. Guinta’s story is at odds with the FEC’s findings. A general counsel’s report notes that “substantial credible evidence” indicates the money was not Guinta’s, and despite all of the supposed evidence Guinta claims to have proving that he contributed significant amounts to the joint account, he accepted the FEC’s conciliation agreement stating that he took excessive contributions.

(The contribution limits for a couple are $5,400 for a primary contest and $5,400 for a general election.)

Moreover, when Guinta showed up to a meeting with the Union Leader in 2015 to prove that he had done nothing wrong, he produced documents showing that he maybe had contributed approximately $100,000 to the account, claiming that if one had invested that money in, say, an S&P 500 Index fund ― which isn’t to say that his parents did ― that money could have grown to more than $400,000.

Guinta also admitted during that meeting that his parents paid taxes on what he claims was his money.

Fuzzy math aside, Guinta hasn’t been reprimanded in any significant way for his actions. He paid the $15,000 fine to the FEC, repaid the $355,000 to the “Guinta Family Fund,” and was promoted to the Budget Committee less than a year later.

GOP leaders did nothing about Guinta’s transgressions. Reporters twice asked former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) whether there would be any repercussions for Guinta ― Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and state GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Horn both called on Guinta to resign last year ― and twice Boehner said he was still looking into the matter. Boehner resigned without ever ruling on the issue.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has similarly been silent.

HuffPost has asked Ryan’s office for comment on Guinta multiple times. To this day, we’ve received nothing.

Ryan’s chief communications adviser, Brendan Buck, did not respond to repeated requests for comment Tuesday on whether Guinta’s latest conduct was the sort of behavior the speaker expects from his members, and earlier this year, Ryan’s office would not comment on whether it was appropriate for Guinta to literally run away from reporters. (Guinta fled when HuffPost began asking him questions regarding the money.)

Cullen has an additional complaint with the FEC, claiming that Guinta, in effect, paid himself twice for a portion of the $355,000. Before Guinta reached his agreement with the FEC, his campaign paid him $81,500 as a loan repayment (back when Guinta was claiming ― as he is now, technically ― that the money was his).

His campaign canceled his remaining debt and reclassified the entire $355,000 as a new debt to the “Guinta Family Fund.” 

By not reimbursing his campaign, Cullen alleges, “Guinta has illegally received and retained $81,500 in contributions to his campaign for his personal use.”

“In effect, he paid himself this amount twice,” Cullen continued.

Cullen also claimed on Tuesday that Guinta may have violated elections laws by mixing primary campaign and general election funds to repay his debt, and that there was now a potential tax investigation related to the $81,500. 

“He’s never released his taxes either,” Cullen added.

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To make your smartphone last longer, avoid overnight charging?

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Tue, 2016-08-23 11:02
Actually, there's more to it than that.

Dog Elected Mayor Of Cormorant, Minnesota -- Again

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2016-08-23 04:22

Duke may be the most popular politician in America, winning re-election for a landmark third time in a landslide. 

What’s his secret? Probably the fact that he’s a dog, and everyone loves dogs. 

In a vote held over the weekend, the 9-year-old Great Pyrenees won his third consecutive term as mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota. Voters paid $1 each to cast ballots in the election, which was held during the annual “Cormorant Daze” festival. 

Everybody voted for Duke, except for one vote for his girlfriend, Lassie,” David Rick, Duke’s owner, told local ABC station WDAY. 

As mayor, Duke appears on three highway billboards promoting the community.

While Duke’s role is somewhat unusual, he’s not the first animal to be elected to office in the U.S. Roadtrippers has a fascinating look at some of the nation’s non-human mayors, including two other dogs, a cat, a cow and a beer-drinking goat named Mayor Clay Henry III.  


(h/t Mashable)

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