Truthout Stories Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:51:55 -0400 en-gb Chaos on Convention Floor: Protests, Boos and Chants of "Bernie" Mark Opening of DNC

The tumultuous opening of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia began one day after Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned following the release of nearly 20,000 emails revealing how the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders. On Monday morning, protesters booed and heckled Wasserman Schultz at a Florida delegation breakfast. Hours later, Senator Bernie Sanders spoke about the DNC email scandal in a meeting with his delegates. Later in the meeting with his delegates, the room erupted into boos when the Vermont senator repeated his support for Hillary Clinton. Supporters of Sanders chanted "Run! Run! Run!" and "Bernie or Bust!" The tension continued on to the floor of the DNC hours later. Democracy Now! was on the floor at the opening gavel of the convention and spoke with several delegates.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: It has been a tumultuous 24 hours here at the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The convention proceedings officially began one day after Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned following the release of nearly 20,000 emails revealing how the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders. On Monday morning, protesters booed and heckled Wasserman Schultz at a Florida delegation breakfast.

FLORIDA DELEGATE: Debbie Wasserman Schultz!



AMY GOODMAN: Hours later, Senator Bernie Sanders spoke about the DNC email scandal in a meeting with his delegates.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: As I think all of you know, Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned yesterday as chair of the DNC. Her resignation opens up the possibility of new leadership at the top of the Democratic Party that will stand with working people.

AMY GOODMAN: Later in the meeting, with his close to 2,000 delegates, the room erupted into boos when the Vermont senator repeated his support for Hillary Clinton.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We have got to defeat Donald Trump, and we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Brothers and sisters --

AMY GOODMAN: Supporters of Sanders chanted "Run! Run! Run!" and "Bernie or bust." The tension continued on to the floor of the Democratic National Convention when it was gaveled open hours later. Democracy Now! was there at the opening gavel of the convention.

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I hereby call the 47th quadrennial Democratic National Convention to order.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Baltimore mayor, not Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, now resigned, has gaveled the Democratic National Convention into order on this first day.

DONNA EDWARDS: I'm Donna Edwards. I actually live in Baltimore City. I was so proud to see Stephanie Rawlings-Blake give the gavel down for this exciting convention. I think it just shows that we're moving forward. We're moving forward with unity and strength, just like we do in Baltimore.

AMY GOODMAN: Could you talk about the controversy around Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the emails that came out, 20,000 of them, and how it suggested that the DNC was clearly on the side of Hillary Clinton? No matter who you support, they clearly supported her.

DONNA EDWARDS: I would say that what's interesting is that in that debate or in that discussion, no one is talking about the fact that Bernie never identified himself as a Democrat until he decided to run for president. So, that's all I have to say on it. It's over. Let's move forward.

SANDERS SUPPORTERS: Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!

AMY GOODMAN: Marcia Fudge, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, is trying to speak. People are booing. People are chanting "Hillary!" There's chaos in the California delegation.

MARK MALOUF: My name is Mark Malouf. I am a delegate for Bernie Sanders in Congressional District 5 from California, Sonoma, Napa County, Vallejo. And the reason why we were booing Tim Kaine is because we'd much prefer a much more progressive candidate that's able to unify the party against Donald Trump and stop the rise of fascism.

AMY GOODMAN: It sounds like your delegation is very divided. People were chanting "Hillary!" and other people were saying no, other people were saying "Bernie!" And many people are holding up "Ban TPP" signs.

MARK MALOUF: Although it is very divided, I am not one of the so-called Bernie or bust, so I will planning -- I am planning on voting for the eventual Democratic nominee. However, I do not know if that is the case for many of the people in this audience.


ALYSSA DERONNE: I'm Alyssa DeRonne from Asheville, North Carolina. The time is now to stop the TPP. We cannot have the TPP come up in a lame-duck session of Congress.

CLINTON SUPPORTER: You're having a hissy fit because you lost. And you don't -- you disrespect a man who fought for your civil rights and fought for the civil --

ALYSSA DERONNE: I'm here to fight for the people, because I live in a democracy.

CLINTON SUPPORTER: Oh, you don't know the people. You just became involved, and you lost. We would work with you, but you're not respecting our people, and you're not respecting others, and you want to have the floor the whole time, and that is just wrong. People would be with you, but you are disrespectful, and you are being bratty and acting out. And that's not what America is about.

ALYSSA DERONNE: I'm sorry, I didn't hear her. I'm trying to stay positive, and I live in a democracy. And I know that unfair trade deals ruin our country. They put millions and millions of people out of jobs. They trash our environment. They're going to invade our internet security. And we don't even know the entire thing, because it's shrouded in secrecy.

KATY ROEMER: My name's Katy Roemer. I'm a registered nurse, and I'm a member of National Nurses United. And I'm a nurse from California, from Congressional District 13 as a delegate. And I think this is what democracy looks like. I'm incredibly proud to be here. We have, you know, been with Senator Sanders. We were the first union to endorse him. And, you know, I'm glad that finally in American politics we're actually airing the fact that there is not necessarily agreement on issues.

CLINTON SUPPORTER: Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts on Tim Kaine?

KATY ROEMER: Tim Kaine -- look, Tim Kaine has a few good things about him, but the reality is, Tim Kaine has not been a friend to labor. Right? And I am a working woman, and I work within labor. I'm a union member. And Tim Kaine has not been a friend to the labor movement. Right?


KATY ROEMER: Well, I mean, he's basically not been -- he's not been friendly to us. He's voted against -- you know, certainly, if you support fast track for TPP, you've got a problem. Right? Because that is an absolute attack on organized labor in this country.

NANCY KIM: Hi. My name is Nancy Kim. I'm a PLEO delegate from Los Angeles, California. I'm a millennial. And the sign I'm holding here today is "No to TPP," because this is NAFTA on steroids. America does not know about it. The magnitude of the problem of the TPP, nobody knows about it. Corporate media is not talking about it. This is going to affect our planet. This is going to affect our families, our people. It's basically, in a nutshell -- I mean, it's over 5,000 pages, 30 chapters. Only six chapters of it is actually about trade, and the rest of it is all about corporate domination. And it's basically the end of democracy and end of humanity, basically. And we want to bring attention to it. It's our job. Our constituents chose us to come out here and represent them. And it's not about a cult of personality or just a person that's running for office, like Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton or whoever. It's about the issues. And I'm a community organizer in Los Angeles, and these issues are not just words on a paper. It's real. So we're here to make -- it's day one. It's not even midday, and I lost my voice, because I'm here to do whatever it takes to really bring justice and let everyone know the truth. People, once they know the truth, even Hillary Clinton people, they will love Bernie Sanders.

AMY GOODMAN: That report from the convention floor, with special thanks to John Hamilton. When we come back, we'll speak with Dr. Jill Stein, who's running for president of the Green Party -- who's running for president on the Green Party ticket. She was the Green Party's 2012 presidential nominee. Ben Jealous will also be with us, former NAACP president, Bernie Sanders surrogate, who spoke at the convention last night in favor of Hillary Clinton. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Uninvited to the Party: Laura Flanders at the Republican National Convention

Mainstream media were all over the Republican National Convention -- but what didn't they show you? What about the people, the movements, and the city that brought power to Cleveland? Laura Flanders investigates.

In this special episode, "The Laura Flanders Show" shares reports from the scene of the Republican National Convention -- but while the party was on inside Quicken Loans Arena, much of Cleveland was still grieving. The 2014 death of Tamir Rice still rests in the minds of many city residents, and it is not the only one.

At the RNC, the rhetoric also targeted those who fear the death of middle-class chances and white working-class jobs. There's a reality to that too, in a city where the normal family incomes are half the national average. In a city that's hurting, in a country that's hurting, who is speaking to all this hurt?

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Official Malice: One Man's Violent Encounter With the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Jim Anderson. (Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Miller)Jim Anderson. (Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Miller)In over six years, Sergeant James Anderson had never told this story publicly until last Monday at the Ypsilanti [Michigan] "Police-Community Relations/Black Lives Matter Task Force" meeting at Ypsilanti High School. A tall, slim, elderly man with glasses wearing a yellow-and-white short-sleeved shirt, he explained that he could not speak too loudly because he can't help crying every time he talks about the incident.

The Incident

On the afternoon of December 7, 2009, Jim visited Wayne State [University] to discuss his latest invention, a special kind of motor (patent pending). In the evening he dropped his wife off at home and then picked up his buddy who had some questions about the motor. Driving and talking, they turned south onto Harris Road off Vreeland Road in Superior Township.

"I travelled about 500 to 1,000 feet. At that point, I noticed a police officer approaching me from the rear in what he later called a blackout mode. He ignited his emergency flashers and I pulled to the right of the road and stopped. He exited his vehicle and approached mine.

"His opening statement to me was that he had received a report that someone was out there hunting and at the same time he was using his flashlight to search the back of my van while still questioning me about hunting. At some point he asked us for our ID, which we gave him. We later learned he was Conservation Officer Jason Smith of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Officer Smith walked back to his car.

"We sat there for about 20 or 30 minutes when we noticed a Washtenaw County Sheriff's car approaching us from the front with emergency flashers on. This car was driven by Deputy Holly Farmer and she parked behind Officer Smith's car. She approached Officer Smith's car and Officer Smith exited. They talked for a minute and then both officers approached my van. Officer Smith was on the driver's side and Deputy Farmer on the passenger side.

"Now Officer Smith's story completely changed; instead of talking about hunting, he said something like 'when you stopped back down the road there, why did you stop?' He kind of caught me off guard because I did not remember stopping. I told him that I didn't remember stopping, but if I did stop, it was to handle nature's business. He said to me again, 'Yes, you stopped and I saw you get out of the car, walk across the road in front of the car, and throw something in the ditch.' At that point, I worried he was trying to frame me for some terrible crime, so I decided to exercise my Miranda rights and stopped talking.

"Then he asked me if he could search my car. I said no, and he said, "I smell marijuana; step out of the car." I had no marijuana in the car. I exited and he ushered me to the front of my car where he proceeded to pat me down and search me with no success. Deputy Farmer then asked my passenger to step out of the car and began to search him. She found a bag in his coat pocket and indicated to Officer Smith that she had found something. In fact, it was an empty bag with some cookie crumbs that had been in that pocket for months. She put my friend under arrest, placed him in the back of her car, and came back to assist Officer Smith.

"At that time, Officer Smith placed me under arrest and led me from the front of my car to the back of his car, which put me in front of Deputy Farmer's car where the dash camera was rolling. Officer Smith began to pull my clothes off. He disconnected my belt, unbuttoned my trousers, and pulled them down to my ankles. He then caught hold of my thermals and pulled them down to my knees. He then pulled my underpants down to about mid-thigh and began to pat and search.

"When he couldn't find what he was looking for, he haphazardly pulled my underclothes up part-way, leaving my skin exposed, and at that time my trousers were still down by my ankles. He reached down by my left foot, caught hold of my trousers on the left side, pulled violently and then dropped the trouser leg again. He walked around to my right side and did the same thing, only this time with more violence.

"At that time he pulled my right leg off the ground and my left leg gave way. I have a weak left side from military injuries. I began to fall backwards to the left with both hands handcuffed behind my back and no ability to catch myself. Officer Smith's tailgate was down and I was afraid that I would strike it as I fell, but instead I fell to the ground into the roadside ditch, injuring my left arm and shoulder. I lay upside down with my body at an angle down the slope of the ditch and my head downward. My hands remained handcuffed beneath me. It wasn't snowing at the time, but it was cold."

Weather records indicate a low of 23°F that day.

Harris Road, where Jim Anderson spent nearly an hour lying half-naked, hands cuffed underneath him, upside down in the ditch on December 7, 2009. (Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Miller)Harris Road, where Jim Anderson spent nearly an hour lying half-naked, hands cuffed underneath him, upside down in the ditch on December 7, 2009. (Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Miller)

"Officer Smith then straddled me. He began to squeeze and massage around my throat and jaw area. I think he thought I might have swallowed something and was trying to push it up.

"According to police records, I laid in the ditch like that with my trousers down for close to 50 minutes. At least five more police cars rolled up during that time and I listened to the officers congratulate Officer Smith, saying that if he hadn't stopped me I probably would've hurt someone, assuming I was intoxicated. One of the officers pulled off my shoes and socks while I lay on the ground, still searching for something I didn't have. Later he put them back on.

"None of them helped me out of the ditch. I didn't ask for help because I figured there wasn't any point. It reminded me of a bunch of hunters in the woods standing around discussing their kill. I was in survival mode, thinking, just keep quiet and let them do what they do.

"When the EMS unit arrived a paramedic asked if I was under arrest, and one of the officers said no. The paramedic said, 'Well, then take off his handcuffs.' He did, and the first thing I asked was, 'Can I put my clothes back on?' The paramedics stood me up and when they checked my vitals they found that my blood pressure was 211 over 150. By that time I just wanted to go home…."

This is the point where Jim's chin trembles as the memory of the trauma floods over him and he cannot hold back the tears. Shaking his head, he continues:

"I just wanted to go home, but the paramedics said I had to go to the hospital. While the paramedics were working to bring my blood pressure down, Officer Smith came into the EMS unit and said, "Sorry for the inconvenience" while putting a ticket on the bed for failing to use my turn signal at the stop sign at Vreeland and Harris Road. I know I used my turn signal. This was a completely different story from supposedly hunting or supposedly stopping down the road.

"My friend told me later that when I was in the ambulance, he overheard Officer Smith ask the deputies if their drug-sniffing dog found anything. They said no, and Smith started walking towards the ambulance, stopped, then said, 'I'm going to give him a ticket anyway.' They turned my friend loose with no ticket and let him drive my van home."

The stop sign at Vreeland and Harris, two narrow dirt roads with very little traffic. (Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Miller)The stop sign at Vreeland and Harris, two narrow dirt roads with very little traffic. (Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Miller)

The Aftermath

"I spent the next three hours or so at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. To this day I'm under treatment at the VA for long-term problems with a pinched nerve in my left shoulder with pain that has since transferred to my right shoulder. I still get physical therapy. I had scars on my wrists from the handcuffs for three months. I'm also still under treatment for severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For a while I was on prescription medication for anxiety attacks that I had for years after the incident. I've never been raped before, but after that night I felt like it must be something like that. I don't know how else to describe it."

Jim's ordeal did not end there. He contacted the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office on December 10, three days after the incident, demanding that they preserve the dash cam video evidence. He was told there was no video available. Three months later somebody told him his video was ready.

He received two videos, eleven and thirteen minutes in length. The citation says the alleged violation occurred at approximately 8:05pm and the ambulance departed at 9:08pm. Radio dispatch from WCSO records Deputy Farmer requesting backup at 8:03pm, stating, "I have one in my back seat, and I have an issue with the second subject here." Neither video documents the beginning of Deputy Farmer's arrival at the scene, even though she was involved in the arrests. His friend later told Jim that while Jim was suffering mistreatment at the hands of Officer Smith, Deputy Farmer ran to her car and shifted the dash camera so it was no longer videotaping what was happening to Jim. He also saw that the red recording light was still on. It appears that the part of the dash cam video most relevant to the Deputy's complicity with Officer Smith's brutal treatment of Jim is missing.

Malice and Racism

The first video does not show any people; it only captures audio of nearby officers and Jim. By this time, Jim is already handcuffed and on the ground. Officers can be heard speaking and, frequently, laughing in the background. The real time is not visible on the video -- it appears to be just at the edge of the screen.

Below are excerpts from the transcript of the video:

[Time marker 136]

"You gotta at least tell us what to tell the ambulance, man. Did you swallow something?"


In response to a dispatcher's request for an update: "Right now he's just layin' on the ground floppin' around a little bit."


"You gotta tell us what's going on. We gotta tell them something. You got a heart problem? You got a stroke? You ingested narcotics? We can't help you if you don't talk, okay. Just because you're acting like you're sick, you're still … you know, whatever they've got on you, you're still gonna pay for that. You know, right now we're just trying to deal with the medical thing…. I mean, what's going on? I know you can talk. What's your deal, man?"

Watching the video, Jim explained, "At that point I didn't want to talk to them anymore."

"You understand that you're going to have to pay for this? All the ambulance and everything?" [inaudible banter]

"He say anything yet?"

"He said, can I talk to a doctor…."

"It's a good thing you saw him, he might've done this while he was driving."

"Yeah, you would've really hurt yourself if nobody had come talk to you about your driving. Wouldn't want that."


[Time marker 224]

Smith: "I was sittin' in this [inaudible] back behind all them trees back there, and I could see him rollin' down, he was creepin'. And then he stopped, and I could see him out in front of the car in front of the headlights [inaudible] and I was sneakin' up on him, and he comes down, he's slow rollin' and comes down Vreeland here.…[inaudible] So I stop, and I walk up and I get up there, and he's all nice! From the get go. You know, I go back [inaudible] I don't know if I can smell some dope in there….[inaudible] So I get him out here, alright, and I got him handcuffed, and he's not sayin' a word, he's just lookin' at me, and uh, I shake his belt, you know, and I go down to lift his pant leg and he, uh, throws his shoulder right into me and drops, and that's when he yells and he starts freakin' out, freakin' out [inaudible]. Buddy, I don't have a clue what's goin' on. [inaudible banter and laughter] Yeah, I got their ID. They're clear. Then he's freakin' out, then all of a sudden he's like, I wanna talk to a doctor…. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, he plowed right into me. [inaudible banter and laughter] Yeah, then he went down. He got one last …"

[Time marker 257]

Jim, sounding agonized: "Ow! Ow! These handcuffs are cutting into my arms."

Smith: "Yep, they do that!"

Jim: "Ohh. Oh. I can't … I can't breathe."

Officer: "Funny how he can only talk when, when he's hurtin'."

Smith: "[inaudible] if you're cool. Are you gonna be cool and not try to … hey, listen, are you gonna be cool? Well, I'm not gonna take 'em off unless you answer me."

Jim: "Oh, my Lord!"

Smith: "You gonna be cool? You gonna be cool? Huh?"

In the background, Jim moans loudly and repeatedly in agony, while officers continue to banter and laugh ["look, he's floppin' around"] until the car door closes and outside audio ends.

Jim explains that Officer Smith was on his right side when Jim fell over backwards to his left without pushing or striking Officer Smith. "After he threw me in the ditch, he had a decision to make: how to cover up his misdoing. As he told his story to the deputies, he revised himself several times."


The second video has real time visible. It begins with a few seconds of a police parking lot at 5:19pm earlier that day. Then it scrambles and contains just a few screen shots from 8:37pm of Deputy Farmer standing over something or someone, mostly obscured by the hood of the deputy's car. Officer Smith's truck is visible ahead and Jim's van is in front of that. Then the video scrambles again, followed by more of the daytime scene from earlier in the day, scrambles again, and jumps to 8:56pm. By this time, Jim's friend is released from the car and the ambulance has arrived. In fact, as early as 8:37, dispatch from WCSO records a male deputy stating, "The driver is TOT to HVA and the other one I kicked loose."

Below is a partial transcript, including dialogue between Jim's friend and the officers:

Friend: "Sorry about this…. Scared as hell, you know. I mean, I didn't think this was gonna happen, you know."

Farmer: "Well, he's gettin' himself all riled up for nothin'. You know, you got somethin' on you, you got somethin' on you, ya know? Whatever. You have to pay the price for it, if you get caught. Then you try to hide it and then it makes it worse. We're gonna find it. For the most part…."

Watching the video, Jim chuckles and comments, "She's lecturing about hiding things, and she's the one hiding the whole video."

Farmer: "Why were you guys out here rollin' around?"

Friend: "Just ridin' and talkin', you know."

Farmer: "Okay."

Jim later remarks, "I was 63 years old. I can drive where I want to."

Dogs can be seen departing and a while later a male officer says, "You'd think there was somethin'. That's a whole lotta work for nothin'…."



Smith: "… but guess what, marijuana [inaudible] in the head, so don't ever do it again."

Friend: "I appreciate it."

Smith: "Alright. Um … nothin' in the vehicle, or … ?"

Farmer: "Nope. Guess not, they came out sayin' they…."

Smith: "Okay, I don't know what they want us to do, so uh, just sit tight and I guess, uh, you might be drivin' the [vehicle] home. Alright?"



Male officer: "His blood pressure's through the roof, but it's probably from him gettin' all worked up."

Farmer: "So, did he say he had heart issues to them?"

Officer: "He did, you could see the line goin' right down where he had…."

Farmer: "Oh, okay. So he had surgery." [Jim has never had heart surgery. He had a scar on his abdomen from an ulcer surgery in the 1970s.]

Officer: "But it's just kinda weird how he was, like, 'I wanna see a doctor. Uff!' I think he got worked up over nothin' and it kinda triggered somethin'."

Farmer: "Right. Could've."

Friend: "We straight?"

Officer: "Yeah, we're straight, man."

Friend: "Appreciate it."

Officer: "Yeah, alright, make sure you check on him 'cause his blood pressure's through the roof, alright?"

Friend: "Yeah, I'll check on him."

Officer: "Alright, take it easy."

Farmer: "[inaudible], he called it, sorry about it, and I was scared, I didn't wanna tell you guys."

Officer: "Well, of course not, but we're not gonna smell it…. I was like, where's the dope here, guys?"



Ambulance leaves. Officers continue to reenact incident and laugh, words inaudible due to closed door.

The Justice System

Then Jim had to go to court to fight the bogus citation for allegedly failing to use his turn signal, at night on an empty dirt road. First Officer Smith told his story. When Jim's turn came, he said, "Judge, this man is not being completely honest with you. He stopped me, pulled my clothes off, and threw me in the ditch." She turned to the officer and asked, "Did you do that?" Officer Smith replied, "Not exactly." The judge ruled in Jim's favor.

Jim decided to sue the State and the DNR. He spoke to the Detroit firm of Sklar and Hurwitz, but never signed a representation agreement. The firm did not represent Jim's best interests; they failed to meet deadlines and dropped claims from the complaint without Jim's input. A settlement hearing proceeded, despite Jim requesting a delay until the VA completed evaluation of his injuries. Judge Gerald Rosen appointed Magistrate Steven Whalen to mediate that settlement hearing, and Whalen suggested that if Jim's claims of permanent injuries were sustained (which they later were when a pinched nerve was diagnosed by the VA) then the settlement should be a high figure. Sklar then argued for a lower settlement for his client. Later Sklar colluded with Judge Rosen to impose a settlement agreement that Jim repeatedly rejected, despite being told by Sklar that if he didn't accept and went to trial instead, the judge would make sure that he didn't get a penny. Jim neither signed nor agreed to the settlement. Judge Rosen ordered "that plaintiff's counsel shall have the authority to take any actions necessary to effectuate the settlement."

Joel Sklar, the attorney, then claimed the VA had a lien on the settlement for Jim's treatment costs, but claimed that if Jim signed off on the settlement agreement, the VA would agree to drop the lien. At that point, Sklar also attempted to get Jim to sign a belated representation agreement. Jim refused to sign either and Sklar proceeded to pay large sums directly to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and the VA Hospital from Jim's settlement. Administrators at the VA have since told Jim that they had no right to that settlement money, but they will not return it. If not for the lawsuit, Jim would not have had any charges for his care at the VA. Jim filed a complaint against Sklar with the Michigan Bar and received formal clearance to file a malpractice suit against him, but could find no attorney in Michigan willing to take the case.

A Life of Dignity

Jim Anderson. (Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Miller)Jim Anderson. (Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Miller)Sergeant Jim Anderson is 70 years old. He comes from Lilbourn, Missouri, and has lived in Ypsilanti for 46 years. He recalls that in his formative years, "I had to work so hard to understand white people that it took me a lot longer to understand who I am myself." He is an inventor, he served as a mechanic in the military for 19 years, and he can take a generator apart and put it back together. He is married, with eight children and eight grandchildren. He tells his grandsons not to even speak to police: "That'll get you killed." He's never been in jail in his life. He is a member of Strong Tower Church and of WeROC (Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition, a faith-labor group).

From 2001 to 2004, he worked on a pasture poultry project in Missouri, inventing a new way of raising chickens. He invented a wrench that you can use to loosen a lug nut with one hand. His motor invention went sour after his encounter with the police in 2009 because he could no longer focus and suffered from severe PTSD. Six months ago he resumed his work and is in the process of filing a patent through Lincoln University in Missouri. He is also in the process of writing a book about his research and personal experiences.


This incident occurred 11 months after Sheriff Jerry Clayton took office. In March of 2010, Jim received a letter from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office stating that they had investigated the incident and Lieutenant Jim Anuszkiewicz "concluded that the deputies on the scene acted appropriately in there [sic] contact with you." Last week, after Jim told his story publicly for the first time, the Sheriff's office called him requesting more information and were at present unable to locate the case or the investigation.

Jason Smith has been a Conservation Officer with the DNR since 2005. He is now a Sergeant in Oakland County, out of the Metro Detroit (District 9) office. His email is and the district office number is 313-396-6890. [Note: There is another Jason Smith who is a DNR CO in a different district.]

Deputy Holly Farmer was involved in the 2010 incident in which 31-year-old Stanley Jackson, Jr., of Belleville was killed by police after they Tasered him three times.

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Debbie Wasserman Schultz Resigns in Disgrace, Only to Be Elevated by Clinton to Key Campaign Role

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As part of her resignation, Wasserman Schultz will also not be speaking from the main podium in Philadelphia. However, her resignation and rapid rehabilitation is likely to provoke Sanders delegates and supporters.

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

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
There's No Business Like the Arms Business

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson has stated that volatility in both the Middle East and Asia would make them growth areas for arms exports for the foreseeable future.Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson has stated that "volatility" in both the Middle East and Asia would make them "growth areas" for arms exports for the foreseeable future. (Photo: US-Japan Council)

When American firms dominate a global market worth more than $70 billion a year, you'd expect to hear about it. Not so with the global arms trade. It's good for one or two stories a year in the mainstream media, usually when the annual statistics on the state of the business come out.

It's not that no one writes about aspects of the arms trade. There are occasional pieces that, for example, take note of the impact of U.S. weapons transfers, including cluster bombs, to Saudi Arabia, or of the disastrous dispensation of weaponry to U.S. allies in Syria, or of foreign sales of the costly, controversial F-35 combat aircraft. And once in a while, if a foreign leader meets with the president, U.S. arms sales to his or her country might generate an article or two. But the sheer size of the American arms trade, the politics that drive it, the companies that profit from it, and its devastating global impacts are rarely discussed, much less analyzed in any depth.

So here's a question that's puzzled me for years (and I'm something of an arms wonk): Why do other major U.S. exports -- from Hollywood movies to Midwestern grain shipments to Boeing airliners -- garner regular coverage while trends in weapons exports remain in relative obscurity? Are we ashamed of standing essentially alone as the world's number one arms dealer, or is our Weapons "R" Us role such a commonplace that we take it for granted, like death or taxes?

The numbers should stagger anyone. According to the latest figures available from the Congressional Research Service, the United States was credited with more than half the value of all global arms transfer agreements in 2014, the most recent year for which full statistics are available. At 14%, the world's second largest supplier, Russia, lagged far behind. Washington's "leadership" in this field has never truly been challenged. The U.S. share has fluctuated between one-third and one-half of the global market for the past two decades, peaking at an almost monopolistic 70% of all weapons sold in 2011. And the gold rush continues. Vice Admiral Joe Rixey, who heads the Pentagon's arms sales agency, euphemistically known as the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, estimates that arms deals facilitated by the Pentagon topped $46 billion in 2015, and are on track to hit $40 billion in 2016.

To be completely accurate, there is one group of people who pay remarkably close attention to these trends -- executives of the defense contractors that are cashing in on this growth market. With the Pentagon and related agencies taking in "only" about $600 billion a year -- high by historical standards but tens of billions of dollars less than hoped for by the defense industry -- companies like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Dynamics have been looking to global markets as their major source of new revenue.

In a January 2015 investor call, for example, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson was asked whether the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration and five other powers might reduce tensions in the Middle East, undermining the company's strategy of increasing its arms exports to the region. She responded that continuing "volatility" in both the Middle East and Asia would make them "growth areas" for the foreseeable future. In other words, no worries. As long as the world stays at war or on the verge of it, Lockheed Martin's profits won't suffer -- and, of course, its products will help ensure that any such "volatility" will prove lethal indeed.

Under Hewson, Lockheed has set a goal of getting at least 25% of its revenues from weapons exports, and Boeing has done that company one better. It's seeking to make overseas arms sales 30% of its business.

Good News From the Middle East (if You're an Arms Maker)

Arms deals are a way of life in Washington. From the president on down, significant parts of the government are intent on ensuring that American arms will flood the global market and companies like Lockheed and Boeing will live the good life. From the president on his trips abroad to visit allied world leaders to the secretaries of state and defense to the staffs of U.S. embassies, American officials regularly act as salespeople for the arms firms. And the Pentagon is their enabler. From brokering, facilitating, and literally banking the money from arms deals to transferring weapons to favored allies on the taxpayers' dime, it is in essence the world's largest arms dealer. 

In a typical sale, the U.S. government is involved every step of the way. The Pentagon often does assessments of an allied nation's armed forces in order to tell them what they "need" -- and of course what they always need is billions of dollars in new U.S.-supplied equipment. Then the Pentagon helps negotiate the terms of the deal, notifies Congress of its details, and collects the funds from the foreign buyer, which it then gives to the U.S. supplier in the form of a defense contract. In most deals, the Pentagon is also the point of contact for maintenance and spare parts for any U.S.-supplied system. The bureaucracy that helps make all of this happen, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, is funded from a 3.5% surcharge on the deals it negotiates. This gives it all the more incentive to sell, sell, sell.

And the pressure for yet more of the same is always intense, in part because the weapons makers are careful to spread their production facilities to as many states and localities as possible. In this way, they ensure that endless support for government promotion of major arms sales becomes part and parcel of domestic politics.

General Dynamics, for instance, has managed to keep its tank plants in Ohio and Michigan running through a combination of add-ons to the Army budget -- funds inserted into that budget by Congress even though the Pentagon didn't request them -- and exports to Saudi Arabia. Boeing is banking on a proposed deal to sell 40 F-18s to Kuwait to keep its St. Louis production line open, and is currently jousting with the Obama administration to get it to move more quickly on the deal. Not surprisingly, members of Congress and local business leaders in such states become strong supporters of weapons exports.

Though seldom thought of this way, the U.S. political system is also a global arms distribution system of the first order. In this context, the Obama administration has proven itself a good friend to arms exporting firms. During President Obama's first six years in office, Washington entered into agreements to sell more than $190 billion in weaponry worldwide -- more, that is, than any U.S. administration since World War II. In addition, Team Obama has loosened restrictions on arms exports, making it possible to send abroad a whole new range of weapons and weapons components -- including Black Hawk and Huey helicopters and engines for C-17 transport planes -- with far less scrutiny than was previously required.

This has been good news for the industry, which had been pressing for such changes for decades with little success. But the weaker regulations also make it potentially easier for arms smugglers and human rights abusers to get their hands on U.S. arms. For example, 36 U.S. allies -- from Argentina and Bulgaria to Romania and Turkey -- will no longer need licenses from the State Department to import weapons and weapons parts from the United States. This will make it far easier for smuggling networks to set up front companies in such countries and get U.S. arms and arms components that they can then pass on to third parties like Iran or China. Already a common practice, it will only increase under the new regulations.

The degree to which the Obama administration has been willing to bend over backward to help weapons exporters was underscored at a 2013 hearing on those administration export "reforms." Tom Kelly, then the deputy assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, caught the spirit of the era when asked whether the administration was doing enough to promote American arms exports. He responded:

"[We are] advocating on behalf of our companies and doing everything we can to make sure that these sales go through... and that is something we are doing every day, basically [on] every continent in the world... and we're constantly thinking of how we can do better."

One place where, with a helping hand from the Obama administration and the Pentagon, the arms industry has been doing a lot better of late is the Middle East. Washington has brokered deals for more than $50 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia alone for everything from F-15 fighter aircraft and Apache attack helicopters to combat ships and missile defense systems.

The most damaging deals, if not the most lucrative, have been the sales of bombs and missiles to the Saudis for their brutal war in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed and millions of people are going hungry. Members of Congress like Michigan Representative John Conyers and Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy have pressed for legislation that would at least stem the flow of the most deadly of the weaponry being sent for use there, but they have yet to overcome the considerable clout of the Saudis in Washington (and, of course, that of the arms industry as well).

When it comes to the arms business, however, there's no end to the good news from the Middle East. Take the administration's proposed new 10-year aid deal with Israel. If enacted as currently planned, it would boost U.S. military assistance to that country by up to 25% -- to roughly $4 billion per year. At the same time, it would phase out a provision that had allowed Israel to spend one-quarter of Washington's aid developing its own defense industry. In other words, all that money, the full $4 billion in taxpayer dollars, will now flow directly into the coffers of companies like Lockheed Martin, which is in the midst of completing a multi-billion-dollar deal to sell the Israelis F-35s.

"Volatility" in Asia and Europe 

As Lockheed Martin's Marillyn Hewson noted, however, the Middle East is hardly the only growth area for that firm or others like it. The dispute between China and its neighbors over the control of the South China Sea (which is in many ways an incipient conflict over whether that country or the United States will control that part of the Pacific Ocean) has opened up new vistas when it comes to the sale of American warships and other military equipment to Washington's East Asian allies. The recent Hague court decision rejecting Chinese claims to those waters (and the Chinese rejection of it) is only likely to increase the pace of arms buying in the region.

At the same time, in the good-news-never-ends department, growing fears of North Korea's nuclear program have stoked a demand for U.S.-supplied missile defense systems. The South Koreans have, in fact, just agreed to deploy Lockheed Martin's THAAD anti-missile system. In addition, the Obama administration's decision to end the longstanding embargo on U.S. arms sales to Vietnam is likely to open yet another significant market for U.S. firms. In the past two years alone, the U.S. has offered more than $15 billion worth of weaponry to allies in East Asia, with Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea accounting for the bulk of the sales.

In addition, the Obama administration has gone to great lengths to build a defense relationship with India, a development guaranteed to benefit U.S. arms exporters. Last year, Washington and New Delhi signed a 10-year defense agreement that included pledges of future joint work on aircraft engines and aircraft carrier designs. In these years, the U.S. has made significant inroads into the Indian arms market, which had traditionally been dominated by the Soviet Union and then Russia. Recent deals include a $5.8 billion sale of Boeing C-17 transport aircraft and a $1.4 billion agreement to provide support services related to a planned purchase of Apache attack helicopters.

And don't forget "volatile" Europe. Great Britain's recent Brexit vote introduced an uncertainty factor into American arms exports to that country. The United Kingdom has been by far the biggest purchaser of U.S. weapons in Europe of late, with more than $6 billion in deals struck over the past two years alone -- more, that is, than the U.S. has sold to all other European countries combined.

The British defense behemoth BAE is Lockheed Martin's principal foreign partner on the F-35 combat aircraft, which at a projected cost of $1.4 trillion over its lifetime already qualifies as the most expensive weapons program in history. If Brexit-driven austerity were to lead to a delay in, or the cancellation of, the F-35 deal (or any other major weapons shipments), it would be a blow to American arms makers. But count on one thing: were there to be even a hint that this might happen to the F-35, lobbyists for BAE will mobilize to get the deal privileged status, whatever other budget cuts may be in the works.

On the bright side (if you happen to be a weapons maker), any British reductions will certainly be more than offset by opportunities in Eastern and Central Europe, where a new Cold War seems to be gaining traction. Between 2014 and 2015, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, military spending increased by 13% in the region in response to the Russian intervention in Ukraine. The rise in Poland's outlays, at 22%, was particularly steep.

Under the circumstances, it should be obvious that trends in the global arms trade are a major news story and should be dealt with as such in the country most responsible for putting more weapons of a more powerful nature into the hands of those living in "volatile" regions. It's a monster business (in every sense of the word) and certainly has far more dangerous consequences than licensing a Hollywood blockbuster or selling another Boeing airliner.

Historically, there have been rare occasions of public protest against unbridled arms trafficking, as with the backlash against "the merchants of death" after World War I, or the controversy over who armed Saddam Hussein that followed the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Even now, small numbers of congressional representatives, including John Conyers, Chris Murphy, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, continue to try to halt the sale of cluster munitions, bombs, and missiles to Saudi Arabia.

There is, however, unlikely to be a genuine public debate about the value of the arms business and Washington's place in it if it isn't even considered a subject worthy of more than an occasional media story. In the meantime, the United States continues to hold onto the number one role in the global arms trade, the White House does its part, the Pentagon greases the wheels, and the dollars roll in to profit-hungry U.S. weapons contractors.

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Turkish Academics Fear Growing Witch Hunt Following Failed Coup

Following the failed military coup, President's Erdoğan's government embarked on a massive purge of academics and intellectuals, which has had a chilling effect on both research and free speech. Erdoğan also banned academics from leaving the country and demanded that anyone currently abroad immediately return in order to facilitate the investigation of the coup.

A woman carries her child while taking a photo of a Turkish special forces armored vehicle, in front of a courthouse where a hearing with high ranking members of the military involved in the failed coup attempt was scheduled in Ankara, Turkey, July 18, 2016. (Photo: Nicole Tung / The New York Times) A woman carries her child while taking a photo of a Turkish special forces armored vehicle, in front of a courthouse where a hearing with high-ranking members of the military involved in the failed coup attempt was scheduled in Ankara, Turkey, July 18, 2016. (Photo: Nicole Tung / The New York Times)

Most academics in Turkey don't want to talk; not even anonymously.

"I rarely, if ever, speak on the condition of anonymity," a former philosophy professor told me, nervously -- and unnecessarily -- apologizing for his uncharacteristic request to remain unnamed. Just a few months ago, he was dismissed from his job after signing the controversial Academics for Peace petition, which supported peace negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Now he considers his career in Turkey to be over.

"But no one wants to talk now," he added. "And if I'm speaking to several different journalists, and it is clear that it is me talking, I've basically put a target on my head."

On July 15, military tanks rolled into Istanbul and Ankara, firing into the streets in an attempt by a subsection of the Turkish military to wrest power from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Over the course of the night, F-16 jets bombed the parliament building in Ankara, and sonic booms echoed throughout the streets of Istanbul. Though the coup ultimately failed, the bloodshed of the night was irrevocable -- 265 people were left dead, with far more injured or arrested amid the chaos in the streets.

Following the failed coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called upon his supporters to fill the streets and demonstrate in favor of democracy -- making public transportation and extra phone credit free to encourage public gathering. However, even as AKP supporters filled the streets waving Turkish flags and singing throughout the night, the government launched a mass purge of civil institutions in an effort to weed out those it considers "traitors." President Erdoğan has claimed that he is targeting followers of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom he suspects of orchestrating the coup.

"I don't even know what the upcoming academic year is going to look like inside of the universities," a journalism professor -- who wished to remain unnamed -- told Truthout. Though her university remains unscathed by the purge for now, she has several close colleagues who have been affected.

"Thousands of incoming students are going to need to change their plans," the professor said.

During the purge, 42,000 teachers were either suspended from their jobs or had their teaching licenses revoked. The Higher Education Council asked 1,577 university deans to resign, and more than 500 professors and other academics were dismissed across the country. Fifteen universities were shut down entirely.

In addition to dismissing hundreds of academics suspected of having ties to Gülen, President Erdoğan also banned academics from leaving the country and demanded that anyone currently abroad immediately return in order to facilitate the investigation. This policy has frustrated many, forcing academics to postpone research requiring international cooperation.

"My colleagues and myself have to cancel participation in conferences, and any joint research projects that require travel abroad," another academic -- who also wished to go unnamed -- said, sighing. Though she was planning to attend a conference in Athens in the coming months, she may now be forced to cancel her plans, as the restrictions on academics continue to mount.

"This means that academic research cannot be done -- or needs to at least be [temporarily] halted," she continued. "International cooperation is basically impossible."

As the ability of academics to produce challenging work becomes more and more restricted, many are considering traveling abroad to pursue their careers with greater freedom.

"Of course, I'd prefer to stay in Turkey," she said. "But right now that just feels impossible."

It isn't only the professors who are affected. Students, when given the opportunity, are increasingly choosing to study abroad -- motivated by the narrowing scope of academic freedom within Turkey and the fear that though it is the Gülenists that the government is claiming to go after today, it could soon be other groups perceived to be antigovernment, or critical of the government.

"They are not motivated to do anything positive in this country," the philosophy professor lamented, musing about colleagues and former students who have chosen to leave Turkey and continue their studies abroad. "They know that if they do what they want to do here, they will be penalized."

For those who remain in Turkey, the increasingly unstable political environment makes more and more scholars wary of publishing critical or sensitive material; they know it means risking the fate the philosophy professor met.

"Over the past six months, I have seen many people, including social scientists, stop doing research," the philosophy professor said. "Let's say you are an economist, but the numbers you are researching look bad. Will you publish these? Or will you sit on them -- and wait until someone else does?"

He sighed. 

"Why try to be [a] good academic when you can toe the government line and become the president of a university?"

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News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Trumping Our Safety ]]> Art Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400 Bernie Sanders at the Democratic Convention: The Struggle Continues

Bernie Sanders speaks at the Wells Fargo Center on the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016. (Photo: Josh Haner / The New York Times)Bernie Sanders speaks at the Wells Fargo Center on the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016. (Photo: Josh Haner / The New York Times)

The first day of the Democratic National Convention culminated in Sen. Bernie Sanders' forceful endorsement of presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. The prime-time audience saw a compelling Michelle Obama address, followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) preceding Sanders. For Clinton, it could not have gone better on a day that began with polls showing Republican nominee Donald Trump surging to a small lead after the Republican convention, and then careened into Debbie Wasserman Schultz's self-immolation.

Five observations from the convention's first day:

1. Sanders supporters are still on fire. On the streets in Philadelphia, they held demonstrations and mini-marches. In Sanders' afternoon meeting with them, they flooded the convention center, overwhelming the room. They roared when Sanders pledged to continue the political revolution and booed at every mention of Hillary Clinton's name. A largely good-natured gaggle greeted the convention's delegates behind makeshift fences with chants and Sanders' signs. Boos greeted the opening prayer of the convention when the minister oddly invoked Hillary Clinton's name. A small but loud group of Sanders delegates booed and chanted each time her name was mentioned for much of the night. All this despite texts from Sanders urging good behavior.

2. La lucha continua. Sanders delighted his followers by committing clearly to continue the "political revolution." In the afternoon gathering, Sanders repeated his plans to launch a political organization -- Our Revolution -- that will recruit, train and elect candidates up and down the ticket, from school boards to the U.S. Senate. He pledged to mobilize his supporters to fight for the platform that he put forward, and to build an institute to do education and training. Sanders summarized the progress that had been made, most importantly, in winning the youth vote by overwhelming margins, those who will set the agenda for the future. He noted that his supporters now had taken over the Democratic Party in five states, and are moving reform of the party in many more.

In his address to the convention, Sanders made it clear that the campaign was only the beginning: "Together, my friends, we have begun a political revolution to transform America and that revolution -- our revolution -- continues. Election days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent -- a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice -- that struggle continues. And I look forward to being part of that struggle with you."

3. The platform matters. Sanders, Ellison, Warren all drilled down on what they celebrated as the "most progressive platform in Democratic Party history." The platform incorporates many of the concessions that Clinton made to Sanders in the course of the campaign and in the platform proceedings. These include a commitment to break up the big banks, to pass a 21st century Glass Steagall act, a $15 minimum wage, extending Social Security, tuition-free college, building a public option in health care reform more than doubling community health centers and much more. Sanders, Ellison and Warren each invoked major planks of the platform as pledges that Clinton understands and will fight for.

They began the process of wedding Clinton to her platform promises. And they also demonstrated how the Sanders supporters and volunteers will hold Democrats generally and the presidential nominee in particular to the platforms promises. Democratic office holders would be well advised to read the document closely.

4. The Glaring Omission: War, Peace and the World. Remarkably, there was virtually no mention of our global policies outside of climate change and trade from Sanders or any of the first night's speakers. The silence reflected stark differences, not consensus. Here the gulf between Clinton's interventionist temper and the majority of Democrats is the greatest. Here the effort to gain progress in the platform had the least success.

5. The limits of endorsement. Clinton could not ask for a better first night. It kick-starts a convention that barring more self-made fiascos will return her to a strong lead in post-convention polling. Sanders forcefully made the case that defeating Donald Trump was the essential next task of his political movement.

But endorsements and convention bounces don't guarantee victories. Sanders can't deliver his supporters or guarantee their enthusiasm. Only Hillary Clinton can overcome the doubts, capture the hopes and gain the trust. Sanders voters were roused by his vision, his agenda and his integrity. Clinton's task is to make herself the forceful advocate for bold change, one clear and strong enough to overcome doubts about her commitment, concern about her compromises, discomfort with her money politics. Trump's vile excesses will clearly help Sanders mobilize his voters for Clinton, but only she can gain their trust and capture their energy. The days ahead will reveal whether she can and wants to do just that.

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Opinion Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
With DNC Leaks, Former "Conspiracy Theory" Is Now True

Revelations that the Democratic National Committee was working behind the scenes to undermine Bernie Sanders led to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.Revelations that the Democratic National Committee was working behind the scenes to undermine Bernie Sanders led to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (Photo: Christopher Dilts for Obama for America)

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For months, Bernie Sanders supporters and surrogates have complained about unfair treatment from the Democratic National Committee -- only to have these concerns dismissed by media observers as petulance and conspiracy-mongering:

This weekend, Wikileaks revealed thousands of hacked emails from within the DNC that showed what the New York Times described as "hostility" and "derision" towards the Sanders campaign from top party officials.

While it's impossible to know whether systemic pro-Hillary Clinton bias at the DNC was decisive in the 2016 Democratic primary race, we now know beyond any doubt that such a bias not only existed, but was endemic and widespread. DNC officials worked to plant pro-Clinton stories, floated the idea of using Sanders' secular Judaism against him in the South, and routinely ran PR spin for Clinton, even as the DNC claimed over and over it was neutral in the primary. The evidence in the leaks was so clear that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has resigned her role as DNC chair -- after her speaking role at the Democratic National Convention this week was scrapped -- while DNC co-chair Donna Brazile, who is replacing Wasserman Schultz in the top role, has apologized to the Sanders camp.

Pro-Clinton pundits were quick to dismiss what was literally a conspiracy to railroad the Sanders campaign as nothing more than a yawn:

So what was once dismissed out of hand -- that the DNC was actively working against the Sanders campaign -- is now obviously true, but not a big deal. This is a textbook PR spin pattern seen time and time again, what might be called the Snowden Cycle: X is a flaky conspiracy theory → X is revealed to be true → X is totally obvious and not newsworthy.

Instead, Clinton partisans decided to focus on the alleged Russian links behind the DNC hack. Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall (7/23/16) released a rather paranoid rundown the day of the leaks on how Putin was conspiring with Trump (a fairly good debunking of which can be found here), soon after dismissing the substance of the leaks as Russian propaganda white noise. Many soon followed suit: The DNC leaks as Russian spy operation was the preferred talking point of the day, omitting or glossing over what the leaks actually entailed.

The actual culpability of Russia for those leaks, it's worth noting, is still unproven. The only three parties that have audited the hack are contractors for the US government, and the DNC's initial story has since changed considerably. At first the DNC (and by extension their security firm CrowdStrike) said "no financial, donor or personal information appears to have been accessed or taken," but this later turned out not to be true at all.

Six weeks since the hack was first revealed by the Washington Post (6/14/16), no one in the US government, including the FBI and White House (who have reportedly reviewed the situation in detail), have implicated or even suggested Russian involvement in the leak -- neither on the record nor anonymously. Thus far, all suggestions to this effect have taken place outside the organs of the United States government -- a common and deliberate conflation that even led to this correction in the Vox recap of the situation (7/23/16):

Correction: I misread the Washington Post's story on last month's DNC hack and misattributed the Russia link to the US government rather than independent security researchers.

Thus far, the Obama administration has avoided any such claims. Indeed, if one reads carefully, so have the security firms in question. Buried in the followup report by the Washington Post (6/20/16) alleging "confirmation" of Russian involvement is the admission by the three firms (the "experts" Clinton's camp refers to) that they cannot be sure WikiLeaks' alleged source Guccifer 2.0 is Russian, let alone an agent of "Putin":

Analysts suspect but don't have hard evidence that Guccifer 2.0 is, in fact, part of one of the Russian groups who hacked the DNC….

It is also possible, researchers said, that someone else besides the Russians were inside the DNC's network and had access to the same documents.

The evidence typically cited to counter this discrepancy is from an alleged chat Guccifer 2.0 had with Vice (6/16/16) showing fingerprints of a Russian plot. But the two pieces of evidence in question -- that Russian metadata was left on the files and the person in question couldn't speak native Romanian -- raise more questions than they answer. If this was such a high-level FSB plot, why couldn't the once legendary "KGB" scrub routine metadata, or find someone who speaks native Romanian? Either Russia is an omnipotent threat wielding its influence over the US and Europe's otherwise pristine body politic, or they're a bunch of incompetent bumbling idiots. Meanwhile, actual evidence for Russia's involvement, as Vox notes, remains elusive.

The DNC's interest in painting this as a Russian plot also bears mentioning. Around the same time this was going down, Bloomberg (6/22/16) suggested the DNC itself was looking to play up the Russian espionage angle as a means of obfuscating what they knew would be "embarrassing revelations":

A spokesman for Baker & McKenzie didn't respond to requests for comment. DNC spokesman Luis Miranda said the party worked only with CrowdStrike and the law firm Perkins Coie.

If the Democrats can show the hidden hand of Russian intelligence agencies, they believe that voter outrage will probably outweigh any embarrassing revelations, a person familiar with the party's thinking said.

This strategy, as explained by a DNC insider a month ago, is now playing out exactly as predicted: The "outrage" over Russia's "hidden hand" is being used to outweigh the damning substance of the leak itself. Parlay this with the recent uptick in "Trump as Putin puppet" conspiracy takes, and what you have is a clear picture of a partisan media that would rather float pitches for a Manchurian Candidate reboot than confront the repeated attempts by an ostensibly neutral DNC to undermine one candidate in favor of another.

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Will Bernie Sanders' Political Movement Have Life Beyond the DNC?

Along with the Democratic party officials, delegates, lobbyists and members of the media who flocked to Philadelphia this weekend came tens of thousands of activists -- a number that will likely continue to grow during the four days of the party's presidential nominating convention, officially kicking off Monday night with speeches from first lady Michelle Obama and former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

The activists' causes were numerous. Front and center was a push to get the Democratic Party and its presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, to pay greater attention to policies espoused by Sanders during his campaign for president. On Sunday, more than 10,000 people gathered in sweltering heat to attend at least one of two rallies that originated over the course of the afternoon in front of Philadelphia's City Hall. The first called for a ban on fracking -- a major industry in western and northeastern Pennsylvania -- and a transition to a clean energy economy. The second was a demonstration in support of Bernie Sanders. Other protests occurred over the weekend: Black Lives Matter events called for an end to policies that disproportionately harm black people, and activists demanding health care for all and a $15 minimum wage joined the many in Philadelphia to make their voices heard.

The day before the big climate and Sanders marches, during a quieter event at a Quaker meeting hall, representatives from many of these causes met to lay out a platform in a formal, online document. The "People's Convention," as participants called it, was designed to look beyond this year's presidential race, toward creating the sort of wide-reaching political movement the Vermont senator so often invoked on the campaign trail.

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The initiative came about largely through the efforts of two organizers, Jack "Jackrabbit" Pollack and Shana East. Both had volunteered for Sanders in the Chicago area. East was hired by the campaign once it started ramping up its organizing efforts in Illinois. But in April, they decided they would have to step away from the Sanders campaign to foster a wider movement.

"The Sanders campaign didn't really seem to be interested in actually working with the grass roots," Pollack said. "Once Shana and I realized that that was the case, we figured that for the political revolution that Bernie had been calling for since the beginning of his campaign, it was really essential that we be building for something, toward something. We were kind of giving a form and a framework to a movement that is currently very amorphous."

"The reality is that Bernie, if you really listened to his speeches and the things that he said over the course of the campaign, he never actually said 'I'm leading this movement,'" Pollack continued. "I think the mistake that a lot of people have been making is to think that they needed to look to him for this movement. The movement is us."

The Democratic Party may have one of the most liberal platforms in recent memory, in no small part because of Sanders and his impassioned supporters. But those at the People's Convention were disappointed. They lamented the absence of planks calling for a ban on fracking, for universal health care and opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Fueling the discontent: Clinton's choice of the relatively centrist Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) as her running mate over more populist options like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

"I told somebody Friday before she announced: If she picks Kaine, every Berner in the country's going to be at the DNC. It's just the biggest slap in the face you could possibly have," said Douglass Paschal, a resident of the Philadelphia suburbs who attended the People's Convention.

A number of Sanders delegates to the Democratic Convention were in attendance. "I came here as mostly an interested observer. I'm excited to see a lot of people I know here," said Christine Kramer, a delegate from Nevada. "When you get to the actual convention, the discussion ends. It's a scripted TV show. So this is where we have the catharsis: This is what we all know needs to happen for our country and how do we get there."

Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator who became a national spokeswoman for Sanders after switching her allegiance from the Clinton campaign to his during the primaries, delivered one of the convention's keynote addresses.

"This nation needs people from all walks of life like those of us in this room today to be able to stand up and speak truth to power and not be afraid. Both major political parties need people like us in this room to keep us honest and keep them on task," she said, also encouraging voters to check out other parties, including the Green Party and the Libertarian Party. "If we truly are a representative democracy where everyone's voice matters, we shouldn't be afraid of a little competition."

There were plenty of people at the convention who still held out hope for a Sanders presidency, and others who looking elsewhere: Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, served as the end-of-the-day keynoter. But Pollack and East emphasized that their Peoples' Convention was not about pushing a specific outcome at the Democratic Convention, but instead about building an enduring movement.

The products of months of input, submitted through the internet, and months of drafting, led by Pollack and East, the People's Platform that the alternative convention ratified Saturday afternoon contained five planks: economic justice, health care as a human right, racial justice, climate justice and "creating real Democracy" -- which dealt with decreasing the influence of money in politics and increasing access to the ballot. All of the planks will be reopened for amending in August.

Contributing to the document were activists affiliated with Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the Green Party, the Sanders campaign, environmental groups and groups trying to limit the influence of money on politics.

The People's Convention was not without its points of contention. In particular, many expressed discomfort with lingering signs of segregation, pointing to the whiteness of the movements behind some causes represented, while the movement for racial justice remains, primarily, black.

But overall, many of the people who stopped by the Quaker meeting hall for some or all of the day cheered the advent of a formal progressive platform after years of diffuse activism and disorganization on the left.

"As far as the theater of power at the DNC is concerned, I don't think this is going to make a big dent in that," said Paschal, a veteran activist who has been following movements on the left since his time with the United Farm Workers in the early 1970s. "But as far as the Bernie movement, or the left movement, this meeting here showed everyone that it will continue. It's a continual struggle. It's going to continue in others' hands."

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400