Truthout Stories Tue, 23 Aug 2016 21:41:07 -0400 en-gb The Price of the Life-Saving EpiPen Increased by More Than 450 Percent

Americans are being forced to pay hundreds of dollars for a common life-saving product that has been on the market since 1977.Americans are being forced to pay hundreds of dollars for a common life-saving product that has been on the market since 1977. (Photo: Phillip Bradshaw / Flickr)

Martin Shkreli became one of the most notorious people in the United States for hiking the price of a rarely used life-saving drug by 4,000 percent in September 2015. And nearly a year later, dozens of reports are now coming out about how Mylan Pharmaceuticals hiked the price of the very common life-saving EpiPen by over 450 percent since Mylan bought EpiPen in 2007.

You've probably heard of EpiPens, and you probably know someone who needs to carry two around with them at all times, just in case they have a severe allergic reaction as a result of some everyday occurrence -- for example, encountering a food product with peanuts or being stung by a bee.

ABC News reports that, "The website Good Rx … currently lists EpiPens as costing around $600 at multiple drug stores. In 2007, when Mylan Pharmaceuticals took over producing the drug from Merck, the cash price of the pens was about $50." And Bloomberg reports that the device only contains about $1 -- one dollar -- worth of epinephrine.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

But it's not the epinephrine that makes EpiPens unique, it's the precision delivery system, the "Pen," that makes the product special. And that delivery system really hasn't changed since 1977 when the EpiPen hit the market. So why did the price jump up from $57 in 2007? Why are patients paying more than $600 for two pens less than a decade later?

Because of the greed at Mylan Pharmaceuticals, plain and simple.

Cynthia Koons and Robert Langreth at Bloomberg wrote last year about "How Marketing Turned the EpiPen Into A Billion-Dollar Business." The report details how Mylan bought EpiPen from Merck and then aggressively marketed the drug to concerned parents, while increasing prices annually.

That strategy boosted the revenues from EpiPens by more than $1 billion, from $200 million in revenues in 2007, up to $1.2 billion in 2015. That strategy worked so well for Mylan that by 2015, EpiPen represented 40 percent of Mylan's operating profits, according to ABR/Healthco estimates.

A report from NBC News shows that during that same period Mylan CEO Heather Bresch's total compensation increased from $2.5 million to nearly $19 million -- a 671 percent increase!

The stock price also more than tripled from $13.29 in 2007 to $47.59 in 2015, and according to OpenSecrets, the company's lobbying efforts spiked from $270,000 to $1.2 million in 2008, resulting in changes in FDA guidelines that directly benefited the company's bottom line -- while patients still saw annual price increases.

That strategy of aggressive marketing, price hikes and intense lobbying efforts also feeds the problem that Sen. Bernie Sanders spotlighted on the campaign trail last year: Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world because the pharmaceutical companies take Americans for suckers.

So in 2015, while patients in the United States paid about $415 for a package of two EpiPens even after insurance company discounts, patients in France only paid about $85 for the very same package.

And just to be clear, EpiPens aren't sold in packages of two so that patients can buy a package and be safe for two allergic reactions. EpiPens are sold in packages of two because in the case of a severe allergic reaction, if emergency services can't arrive within 15 minutes of the first EpiPen shot, a second EpiPen shot needs to be administered, and if it isn't, that person could die.

One parent wrote to Emily Willingham at Forbes and described how quickly that all starts adding up: "In our case, with 2 kids, we have to have 8 at all times: 2 for each child at school and 2 for each child at home, and that is if we don't even use them! If we do have to use one, we have to purchase more."

And because EpiPens expire after one year, they'll have to purchase more anyway, and it could cost that parent nearly $5,000 every year to replace all eight EpiPens (in the unlikely scenario that Mylan doesn't continue to cruelly hike the price).

The truth is, life-threatening food and insect allergies are on the rise, and we should be doing everything we can to make easy-to-administer epinephrine at least as available as defibrillators in public places, like restaurants, schools, universities, businesses, and so on.

It's true that Mylan has made small efforts to make EpiPens more available; for instance the company has distributed nearly 700,000 free EpiPens to more than 65,000 schools around the country. And there is at least one cheaper generic option that costs "only" about $142 with a coupon, nearly twice the cost of two EpiPens in France.

Thanks to runaway corporate power, Americans are being forced to pay hundreds of dollars for a common life-saving product that has been on the market since 1977.

So, while Martin Shkreli grabbed media headlines and was widely reviled for his cruel 4,000 percent price hike last year, he's by no means the only pharmaceutical executive who is relentlessly pursuing profits by taking sick Americans as suckers to be exploited and left for dead.

If we want to solve this issue, we need to rein in the pharmaceutical industries and take the profit-motive out of health care. That means we must join every other developed country in the world and expand universal Medicare coverage to every person in the country, and we need to allow Medicare to negotiate with prescription drug companies for reasonable prices that don't force people to choose between food or pharmaceuticals.

Opinion Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Khalid Jabara's Family Speaks Out After His Murder by Racist White Neighbor

In Oklahoma, funeral services were held Friday for Khalid Jabara, a Lebanese-American man police say was shot dead by his next-door neighbor in a possible hate crime. Police say Stanley Majors will be charged with first-degree murder. Majors has harassed the Jabara family for years. The August 12 killing came less than a year after Majors was arrested and jailed for hitting Jabara's mother with his car while she was jogging. At the time, the mother, Haifa Jabara, already had a restraining order against Majors, after he had threatened and harassed her. But eight months later, Majors was released on $60,000 bond even though Tulsa County prosecutors called him "a substantial risk to the public." For more, we speak with Khalid's brother and sister, Rami Jabara and Victoria Jabara Williams.


AMY GOODMAN: In Oklahoma, funeral services were held Friday for Khalid Jabara, a Lebanese-American man police say was shot dead by his next-door neighbor in a possible hate crime. Police say Stanley Majors will be charged with first-degree murder. The August 12th killing came less than a year after Majors was arrested and jailed for hitting Jabara's mother with his car while she was jogging. At the time, the mother, Haifa Jabara, already had a restraining order against Majors, after he threatened and harassed her. Majors served eight months in jail, but was then released on $60,000 bond even though Tulsa County prosecutors called him, quote, "a substantial risk to the public," unquote.

The Jabara family says Majors had harassed them for years, calling them racial slurs. The Jabaras are Orthodox Christian immigrants from Lebanon, which they fled in the '80s. Victoria Jabara Williams, Khalid's sister, wrote on Facebook, "My family lived in fear of this man and his hatred for years. Yet in May, not even one year after he ran over our mother and despite our repeated protests, he was released from jail with no conditions on his bond -- no ankle monitor, no drug/alcohol testing, nothing," unquote. Shortly before he was shot, Khalid Jabara called 911 to report his neighbor had a gun.

KHALID JABARA: The old man was driving off, and I caught him, and I asked him, "What's going on?" He said -- he was bruising me up. He hit me with the -- his end of the -- his [inaudible] --

911 DISPATCHER: Here, let me -- hold on, sir. I'm going to get you over to the non-emergency line, OK? So you can tell them.

KHALID JABARA: This is an emergency.

911 DISPATCHER: Is he already gone?

KHALID JABARA: This is an -- this is an emergency. So, the old man left. The other person was -- he told me that he hit him with the gun and fired it three times somewhere in the house. So --

911 DISPATCHER: Somebody fired a gun into your neighbor's house?

KHALID JABARA: In his -- yeah, in his own house. The old man told me, when he was leaving -- he said he was going to -- I told him he should go [inaudible] --

911 DISPATCHER: Did you hear any gunshots?

KHALID JABARA: The noise that I heard on my window was like tuck, tuck. It was not a knock. I don't know what it was. But I don't -- it's really not me -- I'm not really saying that -- if I heard it or not, because I didn't -- I didn't hear -- I can never --

911 DISPATCHER: Do you think it was at the 9332 South 85th East Avenue where this happened?


911 DISPATCHER: And was this guy white, black or Indian?

KHALID JABARA: All right, so the person next door is white.

AMY GOODMAN: Police responded to Khalid Jabara's call, but left without speaking to Stanley Majors. Soon after Khalid was shot, his father, Mounah Jabara, called 911 to report what happened.

911 DISPATCHER: 911. Do you need police, fire or medical?

MOUNAH JABARA: Yes, no, this is -- I need to talk to the police. Somebody shot my son.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. He has been shot?

MOUNAH JABARA: Yes, yes, and he's on the floor. Our neighbor. 9328 South 85th East Avenue.

911 DISPATCHER: How many minutes ago did this happen?

MOUNAH JABARA: Just now. Just now. In front of me.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. The guy who shot the gun, was he white, black, Indian or Hispanic?

MOUNAH JABARA: Yes, yeah. No, no. White, white. He's the next-door neighbor.

911 DISPATCHER: How old is he, if you had to guess?

MOUNAH JABARA: Just a next-door neighbor.

911 DISPATCHER: How old is he, if you had to guess?

MOUNAH JABARA: Maybe 60, 65.

911 DISPATCHER: What color shirt and pants is he wearing?

MOUNAH JABARA: I don't know. I can't say; I can't see. He's still -- my son is on the floor. I can't go, because he -- I'm afraid shots will be [inaudible] --


MOUNAH JABARA: 9328 South 85th.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. You didn't see what color shirt and pants he was wearing?

MOUNAH JABARA: No, no, ma'am. He is there. He is here, in the next-door neighbor. I did hear -- I did not go out.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. Do you know what kind of gun he has?

MOUNAH JABARA: I don't know. I haven't seen him. I heard the shots, and I heard the shots. I'm afraid he will come now, actually. I --

911 DISPATCHER: OK. What -- how many gunshots were fired?

MOUNAH JABARA: Three, three. He is on the floor, my son.

911 DISPATCHER: Where was he shot at? Where was he shot at?

MOUNAH JABARA: He shot him! He shot him! He shot him!

911 DISPATCHER: Did he shoot him outside or inside the house?

MOUNAH JABARA: I am [inaudible].

NEIGHBOR: Stay inside!

MOUNAH JABARA: Yes. Where he did shot you? Where did he shot you? OK. Let me call the ambulance.

911 DISPATCHER: I have an ambulance and everyone en route to you, OK?

MOUNAH JABARA: He shot him! He shot him!

911 DISPATCHER: Just stay on the phone.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Mounah Jabara, moments after his son Khalid was shot dead in front of his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We're going now to Tulsa, where we're joined by Khalid's brother and sister, Rami Jabara and Victoria Jabara Williams.

I welcome you both to Democracy Now! My condolences on the death of your brother. Victoria, can you describe the history of what took place? This didn't just happen in one moment.

VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: No, it definitely was a progression of events. And it seemed like every time my family and I would contact either police or the authorities, as we were supposed to do, you know, over the last several years, Stanley Majors would just retaliate and stronger. And so, you know, over the last four -- I think four years or so, you know, from violating two protective orders -- obviously, one of them being hitting my mom, while she was walking, with his car -- and to the most recent incident where he killed my brother, you know, it's just been, you know, pretty -- pretty traumatic over those years, especially since we were -- we did everything we were supposed to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Again, Rami, my condolences, all of our condolences to you and your family. When did you first meet Stanley Majors, your next-door neighbor?

RAMI JABARA: I think he came around maybe in 2012. I actually don't think I've officially met him face to face. You know, we tried to avoid him, especially, as my sister was saying, as the insults and remarks and racist comments began; you know, we just thought like we need to stay away from this particular neighbor.

AMY GOODMAN: What would he say?

VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: You know, he's yelled racial slurs at us, at my mom and dad and my brother, because they all reside in my parents' house, and so they're there all the time.


VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: So, "dirty Arabs," "dirty Lebanese," "Muslims," even though my family is Orthodox Christian. You know, he's yelled racial slurs at neighbors, as well. We have our family friend and -- you know, was mowing our lawn, and he's African-American. He's yelled racial slurs at him, as he was mowing our lawn.

RAMI JABARA: Just unprovoked.

VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: Just, yeah, completely unprovoked.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what happened when you filed your first complaint against Stanley Majors?

RAMI JABARA: Well, so, as my sister said, it was kind of a slow progression of comments and racist remarks. And in -- you know, my mom was like, "What can we do to, you know, help protect ourselves?" And we told her that, you know, she can file a protective order against him. And in, I believe, November 2013, that was -- that was completed.


RAMI JABARA: We got a protective order against him. My mom did.

VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: I should say that, during that time, he was coming on our property and like taking pictures of our house and of my parents. And so, I think that was kind of that final like, OK, this guy is going to come onto our property, so we need to, you know --

RAMI JABARA: Making obscure phone calls, sending very strange letters to my sister and my uncle.

AMY GOODMAN: You had a productive order when he ran over your mother?


VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: Correct. And that was the second violation.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, violation? So, he is arrested, and he's jailed, and he's not tried? He is held for eight months and then released?

RAMI JABARA: Well, so, there was a first violation of protective order in March 2015.


RAMI JABARA: And that involved him making his usual racist remarks, I think, being belligerent and drunk, while we had a family gathering over Easter. So that was violation number one. And he -- you know, as most criminal defendants, he would have several hearings, supposedly leading up to a trial. But he continually did not show up to his hearings. And eventually, the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest, which is common when a defendant does not show up to their required hearings. So that was violation number one. In September 2015, that was violation number two, when he ran over our mother, leaving her for dead in the street.

VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: And that's when he went to jail. But he was never tried, because --



RAMI JABARA: He was -- as with many defendants, they have the option to set bond. And over -- after we had discussed with the district attorney, basically saying this guy cannot be out on the streets, he needs to be held without bond, and they did follow our instructions. And for eight months, he was held without bond.

AMY GOODMAN: And then?

RAMI JABARA: And then, in May of 2015 --


RAMI JABARA: 2016, I'm sorry, we get -- we were checking the status of the case, as we normally do, as it is slowly leading up to a supposed trial. And we realize that, on a routine hearing, where a new criminal defense attorney entered his appearance on Majors' behalf, there was an oral motion made to reconsider bond, and the judge granted it, without our knowledge, basically without objection from the District Attorney's Office.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, he was released.

RAMI JABARA: He was released, without --


RAMI JABARA: Without any actual, you know, conditions on his release, of course, but without any resolution of the prior incidents.

AMY GOODMAN: And how soon after he was released did he kill Khalid?

VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: So, I think, beginning of June, they had the emergency hearing where they increased the bond. And then he made bail. So, June to August 12th.

AMY GOODMAN: And what happened? What did you understand? Were you, either of you, there on August 12?

VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: My brother Rami lives in Dallas, and I live in Tulsa. And so, my mom called. I was at a friend's house with my daughter. She said, you know, "Khalid's been shot. You have to go to the hospital. Khalid's been shot. They won't let me leave, because it's a crime scene." And at that time, I don't know how -- what information she got, but she made it seem that like he got hit in the leg, and he was going to be OK. So, I rushed to the hospital. And, you know, obviously, they told us he had -- he died. And I met my parents -- my husband and I met my parents at -- they were staying in a secure area next to the -- our house, while the detectives were there, on Friday night. And so I met them there. And it was, you know, I think, a four- or five-hour pursuit of Majors. And they never were able to get into his house, because they never got a warrant.

AMY GOODMAN: And Khalid -- Khalid had called, right before Majors shot him dead, and said, "He has a gun. Please come." And the police came and left?

VICTORIA JABARA WILLIAMS: Yeah. So, we're still waiting for the police report, but it looks like my brother Khalid called twice to call the police, once when he learned he had a gun. He said he heard some knocking on his door or on a window, and he went out, and Stanley Majors's spouse, his husband, was driving away. And he said, "He has a gun. He hit me with the gun." And so, my brother called my mom, who was not home at the time. He said, "Don't come home, because we learned he had a gun." And so they called 911. My brother called 911 the first time, saying he heard some knocking. I don't know; I haven't read the police report. I don't know if he called when he heard the knocking the first time, and then he called again when he learned he had a gun, but he called twice, and the police came out once. And they said that they knocked on Stanley Majors' door. They couldn't go in. They couldn't do anything, despite my brother's plea and explaining the story. And then, the police left. And then, eight minutes later, my brother was shot.

News Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman: Dakota Access Pipeline "Is Threatening the Lives of My Tribe"

In North Dakota, indigenous activists are continuing to protest the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which they say would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River. More than a thousand indigenous activists from dozens of different tribes across the country have traveled to the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, which was launched on April 1 by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The protests have so far shut down construction along parts of the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has also sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its approval of the pipeline. For more, we're joined by Dave Archambault, chairperson of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He's in Washington, D.C., where there is a hearing in the tribe's lawsuit on Wednesday.


AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to look at North Dakota, where indigenous activists are continuing to protest the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which they say would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River.

INDIGENOUS ACTIVISTS: Respect our water! Respect our lands! Honor our treaties! Honor our rights!

AMY GOODMAN: More than a thousand indigenous activists from dozens of different tribes across the country have traveled to the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp. The protests have so far shut down construction along parts of the pipeline. Protesters have included Debra White Plume, an Oglala Lakota water rights activist.

DEBRA WHITE PLUME: The need to protect this water has grown way beyond Standing Rock. I'm Oglala and Northern Cheyenne. Many red nations are here. Many more red nations are coming. We put the call out for water protectors to come, land defenders to come. And the word "resistance" is being used. And sometimes we have a problem with the English language, deciding which word to use, but if we just listen to our spirits, we're here to protect sacred water. People will come from all along the river to protect the river that they belong to.

AMY GOODMAN: Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, has also taken part in the protests against the Dakota pipeline. Banks also was part of the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff.

DENNIS BANKS: What's happening here is equally as important, because of the stand that you're ready to make. When they threaten the environment, they're threatening you. We are part mountain. We are part ocean. We are part river. We are part flower and grass and tree. All of this, we are part of all of it, so that when they threaten the environment anyplace, they're threatening you. You have to be in that mindset like that. That's who you are. That's who we are. And our culture, our heritage is what has made us warriors.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dennis Banks. We're joined now by Dave Archambault, the chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who's joining us from Washington, D.C.

Chairman, thanks very much for being with us. Can you explain for us what this whole controversy is about?

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT: There's a lot of different components that all lead up to one, and it is a pipeline that is threatening the lives of people, lives of my tribe, as well as millions down the river. It threatens the ancestral sites that are significant to our tribe. And we never had an opportunity to express our concerns. This is a corporation that is coming forward and just bulldozing through without any concern for tribes. And the things that have happened to tribal nations across this nation have been unjust and unfair, and this has come to a point where we can no longer pay the costs for this nation's well-being. We pay for economic development, we pay for national security, and we pay for energy independence. It is at our expense that this nation reaps those benefits. And all too often we share similar concerns, similar wrongdoings to us, so we are uniting, and we're standing up, and we're saying, "No more."

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what exactly the Dakota Access pipeline is and how it ended up going through your land?

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT: Dakota Access pipeline is a pipeline that goes 1,200 miles, taking Bakken crude oil from the northwest side of North Dakota down to Illinois. And we were brought -- made aware of this in 2014. And our biggest concern was it was -- it crossed the Missouri River twice, once north of -- once in Lake Sakakawea and once north of our reservation. And right away, when we first learned of it, we said, "We don't want this. We don't want it here." But it's a private pipeline from a private company out of Dallas, Texas. And so, there's a big corporation, Energy Transfer Partners, out of Dallas, who are making decisions for the state and for North Dakota, for my reservation, and they have no sensitivity or no acknowledgment of what is in place. All they see is dollar signs and greed. So we are not happy with this private-based company.

There are portions of this pipeline that cross federal lands, like water, and so they have to get permits, but they get easements on private property. And the private landowners who do not approve of the pipeline, there's the eminent domain taking. So, the landowners where the pipeline crosses kind of have their hands tied. But in the federal permitting process -- and it's like, of the 1,200 miles, 200 waterways, maybe 300 miles are on federal lands. That's what we're saying: If we can't do anything on the private lands, we're going to ask the federal agencies to reconsider and take a look at this, because we never had the opportunity to express our concerns.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Debra White Plume, an Oglala Lakota water rights activist, speaking at the Sacred Stone camp.

DEBRA WHITE PLUME: We're putting a call out for warriors to come here to do direct action, to stop them from boring under this water, because that's going to contaminate it. We can't stand for that. We can't let that happen. I, for one, made a commitment. They're going to have to kill me, or they're going to have to lock me in jail, but I'm going to stand to protect the sacred water. And I'm guided by spirit.

AMY GOODMAN: So that's Debra White Plume, who participated in the 1973 standoff in which members of the American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee to demand their treaty rights. She called for focus in the action at Sacred Stone.

DEBRA WHITE PLUME: I understand that rage. I fought with cops before. I've been shot at by police. I've been shot by police. We got it on with the police on Pine Ridge back in the day. So I understand that rage. But when we're here together to protect sacred water, let's do it with dignity, let's do it with training, let's do it with unity.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Chairman Dave Archambault, explain what this camp is, where it is, and how many people are coming out to it, and how the state is responding.

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT: This camp is along the Cannonball River, close to the mouth of Missouri River. And the camp is -- started out in April of 2016 as a prayer camp. And the prayers have been answered. There has been power in prayer. And it opened the eyes to everybody that, through prayer and unity, great things can happen. Since the -- about two -- the demonstrations started, more and more people began coming and showing overwhelming support for this, and we had to anticipate large masses of people coming, so we occupied a space just north of the Cannonball River off the Standing Rock Reservation, which is core land, and it's on a nice flat.

Right now what's going on is it's about peace, and it's about prayer, and it's about uniting. And there's a really good feeling, if you were to walk through the camp. There are no guns, no violence, no drugs, no alcohol. And it kind of took a life of its own. It evolved into something very special.

The state, on the other side, has taken action, which there's no cause for. They created a barricade just south of Mandan, right before you get into Fort Lincoln, Custer's park. It's about 25 miles north of the camp. And this barricade creates a hardship for the members who live on Standing Rock. The state also removed its emergency assistance vehicles, that we initially got to establish and accommodate large masses of people.

AMY GOODMAN: You were arrested there, Chairman?


AMY GOODMAN: I want to play Morton County, North Dakota, Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier's comments, claims he made that there have been reports of weapons at Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, and get your response.

SHERIFF KYLE KIRCHMEIER: It's turning into an unlawful protest with some of the things that have been done and has been compromised up to this point. We have had incidents and reports of weapons, of pipe bombs, of some shots fired.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that's the sheriff. Dave Archambault, your response?

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT: There never was any shots fired. There never were any pipe bombs. There were never any incidents of unlawful activity taking place. When you have a large mass of people in an area, especially with social media, you have Facebook, that can create rumors. And I would ask that the sheriff and the governor validate any rumors that they come across, before they make haste decisions to create a blockade or to declare a state of emergency or to remove any of their emergency assistance vehicles. I understand they have safety concerns, but you just have to be present at the camp, and you'll see that it's a peaceful place, and there are happy people who share a common prayer. And that is --

AMY GOODMAN: Chairman, can you explain the lawsuit?

DAVE ARCHAMBAULT: So, what we're filing a lawsuit on is the destruction of our ancestral burial sites and never being given the opportunity to protect them, as well as the nationwide permitting process. Rather than permitting the project as a whole and doing a full EIS, the Corps of Engineers asked that they permit chunks and pieces of it. And they require an EA. Now, the EA is less intensive as the EIS, so they're able to kind of do unlawful things, that -- such as destroy our sites that are sacred to us.

We don't agree with the fact -- they're going to say they had consulted with us on this matter. To us, consulting doesn't mean corresponding through letter or mail, or it doesn't mean presenting us a final draft of what you're going to do. Consulting, to us, would mean that we need to have deliberation and share our concerns and hope that they hear us and see a reflection of our concerns in the final plan. None of that has taken place. We asked for consultation prior to any final drafts and to survey the routes to make sure that none of the sites that we cherish would be destroyed. It's not until after they finalized what they want to do, this Dallas-based company who is doing the EA for the Corps of Engineers tells us how or where they're going to go. Now they come and invite us to do surveys, and we don't think that's right. We think it's unlawful, and we think it's unjust.

AMY GOODMAN: Dave Archambault, chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. When we come back, indigenous rights activist Winona LaDuke will also join us. Stay with us.

News Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Pod People ]]> Art Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400 No Need to Build Donald Trump's Wall -- It's Already Built

A painted metal mural attached to the Mexican side of the US border wall in the city of Heroica Nogales, Sonora.A painted metal mural attached to the Mexican side of the US border wall in the city of Heroica Nogales, Sonora. The mural is titled "Paseo de Humanidad" (Parade of Humanity) and was created by artists Alberto Morackis, Alfred Quiróz and Guadalupe Serrano. It depicts the struggles and harsh realities of economic refugees traveling through the Sonoran desert to reach the US. (Photo: Jonathan McIntosh / Flickr)

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At the federal courthouse, Ignacio Sarabia asks the magistrate judge, Jacqueline Rateau, if he can explain why he crossed the international boundary between the two countries without authorization. He has already pleaded guilty to the federal misdemeanor commonly known as "illegal entry" and is about to receive a prison sentence. On either side of him are eight men in the same predicament, all still sunburned, all in the same ripped, soiled clothes they were wearing when arrested in the Arizona desert by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Once again, the zero tolerance border enforcement program known as Operation Streamline has unfolded just as it always does here in Tucson, Arizona. Close to 60 people have already approached the judge in groups of seven or eight, their heads bowed submissively, their bodies weighed down by shackles and chains around wrists, waists, and ankles. The judge has handed out the requisite prison sentences in quick succession -- 180 days, 60 days, 90 days, 30 days.

On and on it goes, day-in, day-out. Like so many meals served in fast-food restaurants, 750,000 prison sentences of this sort have been handed down since Operation Streamline was launched in 2005. This mass prosecution of undocumented border crossers has become so much the norm that one report concluded it is now a "driving force in mass incarceration" in the United States. Yet it is but a single program among many overseen by the massive U.S. border enforcement and incarceration regime that has developed during the last two decades, particularly in the post-9/11 era.

Sarabia takes a half-step forward. "My infant is four months old," he tells the judge in Spanish. The baby was, he assures her, born with a heart condition and is a U.S. citizen. They have no option but to operate. This is the reason, he says, that "I'm here before you." He pauses.

"I want to be with my child, who is in the United States."

It's clear that Sarabia would like to gesture emphatically as he speaks, but that's difficult, thanks to the shackles that constrain him. Rateau fills her coffee cup as she waits for his comments to be translated into English.

Earlier in April 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, still in the heat of his primary campaign, stated once again that he would build a massive concrete border wall towering 30 (or, depending on the moment, 55) feet high along the 2,000 mile U.S.-Mexican border. He would, he insisted, force Mexico to pay for the $8 billion to $10 billion barrier. Repeatedly throwing such red meat into the gaping jaws of nativism, he has over these last months also announced that he would create a major "deportation force," repeatedly sworn that he would ban Muslims from entering the country (a position that he regularly revises), and most recently, that he would institute an "extreme vetting" process for foreign nationals arriving in the United States.

In June 2015, when he rode a Trump Tower escalator into the presidential campaign, among his initial promises was the building of a "great" and "beautiful" wall on the border. ("And no one builds walls better than me, believe me. I will do it very inexpensively. I will have Mexico pay for that wall.")  As he pulled that promise out of a hat with a magician's flair, the actual history of the border disappeared. From then on in Election 2016, there was just empty desert and Donald Trump.

Suddenly, there hadn't been a bipartisan government effort over the last quarter-century to put in place an unprecedented array of walls, detection systems, and guards for that southern border. In those years, the number of Border Patrol agents had, in fact, quintupled from 4,000 to more than 21,000, while Customs and Border Protection became the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country with more than 60,000 agents. The annual budget for border and immigration enforcement went from $1.5 to $19.5 billion, a more than 12-fold increase. By 2016, federal government funding of border and immigration enforcement added up to $5 billion more than that for all other federal law enforcement agencies combined.

Operation Streamline, a cornerstone program in the "Consequence Delivery System," part of a broader Border Patrol deterrence strategy for stopping undocumented immigration, is just one part of a vast enforcement-incarceration-deportation machine. The program is as no-nonsense as its name suggests. It's not The Wall, but it embodies the logic of the wall: either you crossed "illegally" or you didn't. It doesn't matter why, or whether you lost your job, or if you've had to skip meals to feed your kids. It doesn't matter if your house was flooded or the drought dried up your fields. It doesn't matter if you're running for your life from drug cartel gunmen or the very army and police forces that are supposed to protect you.

This system was what Ignacio Sarabia faced a few months ago in a Tucson court.  His tragedy is one that plays out so many times daily a mere seven blocks from where I live.

Before I tell you how the judge responded to his plea, it's important to understand Sarabia's journey, and that of so many thousands like him who end up in this federal courthouse day after day. As he pleads to be with his newborn son, his voice cracking with emotion, his story catches the already Trumpian-style of border enforcement -- both the pain and suffering it has caused, and the strategy and massive build-up behind it -- in ways that the campaign rhetoric of both parties and the reporting on it doesn't. As reporters chase their tails attempting to explain Trump's wild and often unfounded claims and declarations, the on-the-ground border reality goes unreported. Indeed, one of the greatest "secrets" of the 2016 election campaign (though it should be common knowledge) is that the border wall already exists.  It has for years and the fingerprints all over it aren't Donald Trump's but the Clintons', both Bill's and Hillary's.

The Wall That Already Exists

Twenty-one years before Trump's wall-building promise (and seven years before the 9/11 attacks), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to replace the chain link fence that separated Nogales, Sonora, in Mexico from Nogales, Arizona, in the United States with a wall built of rusty landing mats from the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. Although there had been various half-hearted attempts at building border walls throughout the twentieth century, this was the first true effort to build a barrier of what might now be called Trumpian magnitude.

That rusty, towering wall snaked through the hills and canyons of northern Sonora and southern Arizona forever deranging a world that, given cross-border familial and community ties, then considered itself one. At the time, who could have known that the strategy the first wall embodied would still be the model for today's massive system of exclusion.

In 1994, the threat wasn't "terrorism." In part, the call for more hardened, militarized borders came in response, among other things, to a never-ending drug war.  It also came from U.S. officials who anticipated the displacement of millions of Mexicans after the implementation of the new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which, ironically, was aimed at eliminating barriers to trade and investment across North America.

And the expectations of those officials proved well justified. The ensuing upheavals in Mexico, as analyst Marco Antonio Velázquez Navarrete explained to me, were like the aftermath of a war or natural disaster. Small farmers couldn't compete against highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness giants like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. Mexican small business owners were bankrupted by the likes of Walmart, Sam's Club, and other corporate powers. Mining by foreign companies extended across vast swaths of Mexico, causing territorial conflicts and poisoning the land. The unprecedented and desperate migration that followed came up against what might be considered the other side of the Clinton doctrine of open trade: walls, increased border agents, increased patrolling, and new surveillance technologies meant to cut off traditional crossing spots in urban areas like El Paso, San Diego, Brownsville, and Nogales.

"This administration has taken a strong stand to stiffen the protection of our borders," President Bill Clinton said in 1996. "We are increasing border controls by fifty percent."

Over the next 20 years, that border apparatus would expand exponentially in terms of personnel, resources, and geographic reach, but the central strategy of the 1990s (labeled "Prevention Through Deterrence") remained the same. The ever-increasing border policing and militarization funneled desperate migrants into remote locations like the Arizona desert where temperatures can soar to 120 degrees in the summer heat.

The first U.S. border strategy memorandum in 1994 predicted the tragic future we now have. "Illegal entrants crossing through remote, uninhabited expanses of land and sea along the border can find themselves in mortal danger," it stated.

Twenty years later, more than 6,000 remains have been found in the desert borderlands of the United States. Hundreds of families continue to search for disappeared loved ones. The Colibri Center for Human Rights has records for more than 2,500 missing people last seen crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In other words, that border has become a graveyard of bones and sadness.

Despite all the attention given to the wall and the border this election season, neither the Trump nor Clinton campaigns have mentioned "Prevention Through Deterrence," nor the subsequent border deaths. Not once. The same goes for the establishment media that can't stop talking about Trump's wall. There has been little or no mention of what border groups have long called a "humanitarian crisis" of deaths that have increased five-fold over the last decade, thanks, in part, to a wall that already exists. (If the people dying were Canadians or Europeans, attention would, of course, be paid.)

Although wall construction began during Bill Clinton's administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) built most of the approximately 700 miles of fencing after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed. At the time, Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of that Republican-introduced bill, along with 26 other Democrats. "I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in," she commented at one 2015 campaign event, "and I do think you have to control your borders."

The 2006 wall-building project was expected to be so environmentally destructive that homeland security chief Michael Chertoff waived 37 environmental and cultural laws in the name of national security.  In this way, he allowed Border Patrol bulldozers to desecrate protected wilderness and sacred land.

"Imagine a bulldozer parking in your family graveyard, turning up bones," Chairman Ned Norris, Jr., of the Tohono O'odham Nation (a Native American tribe whose original land was cut in half by the U.S. border) told Congress in 2008. "This is our reality."

With a price tag of, on average, $4 million a mile, these border walls, barriers, and fences have proven to be one of the costliest border infrastructure projects undertaken by the United States. For private border contractors, on the other hand, it's the gift that just keeps on giving. In 2011, for example, the DHS granted Kellogg, Brown, and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, one of our "warrior corporations," a $24.4 million upkeep contract.

In Tucson in early August, Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence looked out over a sea of red "Make America Great Again" caps and t-shirts and said, "We will secure our border. Donald Trump will build that wall."  He would be met with roaring applause, even though his statement made no sense at all.

Should Trump actually win, how could he build something that already exists? Indeed, for all practical purposes, the "Great Wall" that Trump talks about may, by January 2017, be as antiquated as the Great Wall of China given the new high-tech surveillance methods now coming on the market.  These are being developed in a major way and on a regular basis by a booming border techno-surveillance industry.

The twenty-first-century border is no longer just about walls; it's about biometrics and drones. It's about a "layered approach to national security," given that, as former Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher has put it, "the international boundary is no longer the first or last line of defense, but one of many."  Hillary Clinton's promise of "comprehensive immigration reform" -- to be introduced within 100 days of her entering the Oval Office -- is a much more reliable guide than Trump's wall to our grim immigration future. If her bill follows the pattern of previous ones, as it surely will, an increasingly weaponized, privatized, high-tech, layered border regime, increasingly dangerous to future Ignacio Sarabias, will continue to be a priority of the federal government.

On the surface, there are important differences between Clinton's and Trump's immigration platforms. Trump's wildly xenophobic comments and declarations are well known, and Clinton claims that she will, among other things, fight for family unity for those forcibly separated by deportation and enact "humane" immigration enforcement.  Yet deep down, the policies of the two candidates are far more similar than they might at first appear.

Navigating Donald Trump's Borderlands Now

That April day, only one bit of information about Ignacio Sarabia's border crossing to reunite with his wife and newborn child was available at the Tucson federal courthouse. He had entered the United States "near Nogales."  Most likely, he circumvented the wall first started during the Clinton administration, like most immigrants do, by making his way through the potentially treacherous canyons that surround that border town.

If his experience was typical, he probably didn't have enough water or food, and suffered some physical woe like large, painful blisters on his feet. Certainly, he wasn't atypical in trying to reunite with loved ones. After all, more than 2.5 million people have been expelled from the country by the Obama administration, an average annual deportation rate of close to 400,000 people.  This was, by the way, only possible thanks to laws signed by Bill Clinton in 1996 and meant to burnish his legacy.  They vastly expanded the government's deportation powers.  

In 2013 alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out 72,000 deportations of parents who said that their children were U.S.-born. And many of them are likely to try to cross that dangerous southern border again to reunite with their families.

The enforcement landscape Sarabia faced has changed drastically since that first wall was built in 1994. The post-9/11 border is now both a war zone and a showcase for corporate surveillance.  It represents, according to Border Patrol agent Felix Chavez,  an "unprecedented deployment of resources," any of which could have led to Sarabia's capture. It could have been one of the hundreds of remote video or mobile surveillance systems, or one of the more than 12,000 implanted motion sensors that set off alarms in hidden operational control rooms where agents stare into large monitors.

It could have been the spy towers made by the Israeli company Elbit Systems that spotted him, or Predator B drones built by General Atomics, or VADER radar systems manufactured by the defense giant Northrup Grumman that, like so many similar technologies, have been transported from the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq to the U.S. border.

If the comprehensive immigration reform that Hillary Clinton pledges to introduce as president is based on the already existing bipartisan Senate package, as has been indicated, then this corporate-enforcement landscape will be significantly bolstered and reinforced. There will be 19,000 more Border Patrol agents in roving patrols throughout "border enforcement jurisdictions" that extend up to 100 miles inland. More F-150 trucks and all-terrain vehicles will rumble through and, at times, tear up the desert. There will be more Blackhawk helicopters, flying low, their propellers dusting groups of scattering migrants, many of them already lost in the vast, parched desert.

If such a package passes the next Congress, up to $46 billion could be slated to go into more of all of this, including funding for hundreds of miles of new walls. Corporate vendors are salivating at the thought of such a future and in a visible state of elation at homeland security tradeshows across the globe.

The 2013 bill that passed in the Senate but failed in the House of Representatives also included a process of legalization for the millions of undocumented people living in the United States. It maintained programs that will grant legal residence for children who came to the United States at a young age and their parents. Odds are that a comprehensive reform bill in a Clinton presidency would be similar.

Included in that bill was, of course, funding to bolster Operation Streamline. The Evo A. DeConcini Federal Courthouse in Tucson would then have the capacity to prosecute triple the number of people it deals with at present.

After taking a sip from her coffee and listening to the translation of Ignacio Sarabia's comments, the magistrate judge looks at him and says she's sorry for his predicament.

Personally, I'm mesmerized by his story as I sit on a wooden bench at the back of the court. I have a child the same age as his son. I can't imagine his predicament.  Not once while he talks does it leave my mind that my child might even have the same birthday as his.

The judge then looks directly at Sarabia and tells him that he can't just come here "illegally," that he has to find a "legal way" (highly unlikely, given the criminal conviction that will now be on his record).  "Your son," she says, "when he gets better, and his mother, can visit you where you are in Mexico."

"Otherwise," she adds, he'll be "visiting you in prison" -- not exactly, she points out, an appealing scenario: seeing your father in a prison where he will be "locked away for a very long time."

She then sentences the nine men standing side by side in front of her for periods ranging from 60 days to 180 days for the crime of crossing an international border without proper documents. Sarabia receives a 60-day sentence.

Next, armed guards from G4S -- the private contractor that once employed Omar Mateen (the Pulse nightclub killer) and has a lucrative quarter-billion-dollar border contract with Customs and Border Protection -- will transport each of the shackled prisoners to a Corrections Corporation of America private prison in Florence, Arizona. It is there that Sarabia will think about his child's endangered heart from behind layers of coiled razor wire, while the corporation that runs the prison makes $124 per day for incarcerating him.

Indeed, Donald Trump's United States doesn't await his presidency. It's already laid out before us, and one place it's happening every single day is in Tucson, only seven blocks from my house.

News Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Enhancing Voter Turnout: A Primary Concern

American democracy has been on a roll. Over the past few weeks, courts across the country have affirmed that we are better when everyone participates and each voter's voice is heard.

Voter-ID laws, designed to suppress the vote, have been taking a beating. In TexasNorth Carolina and North Dakota, courts struck down or modified voter-ID laws that make it harder for low-income, minority and student voters to cast their constitutionally protected ballots. A similar victory in Wisconsin is in limbo after a federal appeals court stayed the lower-court ruling pending appeal. With these decisions, the courts -- including one of the most conservative appellate circuits in the land -- announced that vote suppression tactics limiting Americans' right to vote won't be tolerated. It's a win for voters, and a win for democracy.

But pernicious laws aren't the only things standing in the way of a robust and active democracy. Anyone who takes a minute to reflect on our election season so far would do well to ask, what more needs to be done? Turnout for presidential elections barely pushes 60 percent on a good day -- see President Obama's first election in 2008 -- and turnout for primaries pales in comparison. This year, 28.5 percent of eligible citizens voted in presidential primaries. While that figure seems shockingly low, it's on the higher end of the spectrum; participation in the 2008 primaries reached a record level of 30.4 percent.

To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

And, believe it or not, primary season isn't over. This August, when many families are hitting the road or the beach for a last summer fling before school starts, 12 states are holding primary elections to pick nominees for fall House and Senate contests. The outcomes of these races are important -- just ask Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, what a difference a Congress can make. Many of the states where voters are being asked to go to the polls to choose members of Congress already held presidential primaries earlier this year.

In a country where participation in primaries is consistently so low that it landed the United States 138th place out of 169 democracies in an international evaluation of turnout, one has to wonder if voter confusion might not be one of the factors involved. Consider:

In New York's 1st Congressional District, 45,636 Democratic voters turned out to cast ballots in the April presidential primary. For June's competitive congressional Democratic primary, the figure was 12,641.  The drop-off was similarly abysmal in the state's 22nd Congressional District among Republicans: 67,505 voted in the presidential primary. But in a hotly contested June GOP congressional primary, just 23,250 Republican voters turned out. (And New Yorkers might be surprised to learn that they have yet another primary ballot to cast, on Sept. 13, for state and local candidates).

In Missouri's 1st Congressional District, which includes the city of St. Louis and much of St. Louis County, 147,597 Democrats voted in the March presidential primary. For this month's three-way Democratic primary for the US House seat, the number of Democrats voting was 89,182. In Missouri's heavily Republican 4th Congressional District, 130,638 Republicans cast ballots in the presidential primary, compared to 101,888 for the district's three-way GOP congressional primary.

Much needs to be done on voter registration reform; states with same-day registration have significantly higher turnout rates in both general and primary elections, and a new reform -- automatic voter registration -- has the potential to raise those numbers further.

Full restoration of the protections of the Voting Rights Act, earlier gutted by the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby Co. v. Holder, would prevent additional suppressive laws from hitting state books; the Voting Rights Advancement Act before Congress would ensure no voter's ballot could be blocked by discrimination. These fixes aside, there's more we should do to address how the primary system itself ensures all eligible Americans come together to select each party's nominee.

In light of this year's patterns during the primaries, three problems requiring solutions are at the top:

1. Everyone should participate, but caucuses discourage that.

If you want people to stay home, throw a caucus. When voting at a caucus, typically you have to spend a few hours checking in, listening to speeches and then aligning with one candidate over another. Given this chunk of time, parents with child care responsibilities and workers pulling down late shifts often miss out on the chance to cast their votes. Moreover, not every state's caucus ensures a secret ballot; some require that individuals physically gather around a candidate while being counted. Indeed, the rules can feel a bit "inside baseball." As a result, caucuses typically attract political insiders over everyday Americans, leading to polarizing elections instead of down-the-middle selections.

During this past election season, caucus states had some of the lowest turnout compared with primary states. Aside from Iowa, which perpetually has held the nation's first caucus in a presidential election year, and Idaho, whose unaffiliated voters can register with a party on Election Day, the remaining nine states with caucuses saw turnout under 15 percent -- with at least half the states in the single digits. For their Democratic Party caucus, North Dakota's voters turned out at an abysmal rate of 0.7 percent. With a system like this, only a privileged few decide for the many whose name should head the top of the ticket.

2. Voting should be accessible and secure, but early registration deadlines are an obstacle.

In some states -- Minnesota, for example -- an eligible citizen can both register and vote on the date of the primary, thereby permitting those who aren't as politically involved to still choose a nominee. Most states, though, don't permit that option, and most impose deadlines by which a registered voter must change his or her affiliation in order to vote a different ticket in the primary. New York state, taking that rule to the extreme, requires an individual to make such a change 193 days before its April primary, so it's no surprise that turnout in New York hovered at around 20 percent. Few people pay attention to the election that far out, and fewer still have chosen a candidate by the deadline. This is especially troubling for the growing number of Americans who identify as independent, aligning themselves with a candidate rather than a party.

3. Our current primary schedule consistently benefits some voters to the detriment of others.

Not surprisingly, New Hampshire, the second state to vote (right after Iowa's caucuses) and home of the first primary of the season, boasted the highest voter turnout with 53 percent -- a figure well above most other states, which hover between 20 and 30 percent turnout. Because they hold the first primary and caucus respectively, New Hampshire and Iowa get the most attention from the media and candidates alike, and its reflected in the turnout stats. The old saying may be, "as New Hampshire goes, so goes the nation," but a state with under 1.5 million residents, 94 percent of whom are white, does not represent this country as a whole. New Hampshire's golden spot during the presidential elections  gives it unfair advantage in candidate selection over  the rest of the states -- and the rest of Americans.

When it comes to selecting elected officials, Americans pay the most attention during presidential election years. States know and capitalize on this; most keep moving primary and caucus dates up in a race to get to the top of the pack -- garnering media and candidate attention, not to mention campaign dollars. A more appropriate spacing, perhaps even a rotating schedule among the states, would also make it possible to schedule down-ballot elections for the same date -- ensuring that more citizens vote for the offices that impact them most.

Our current primary system gets berated each election season, with good reason.  It doesn't work well. If we want to truly raise our turnout rates, and ensure that all eligible Americans are participating, we've got to come up with solutions.  Otherwise, come the presidential election, 60 percent turnout will still look pretty good.

News Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
As the UN Finally Admits Role in Haiti Cholera Outbreak, Here Is How Victims Must Be Compensated

The United Nations has, at long last, accepted some responsibility that it played a part in a cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in 2010 and has since killed at least 9,200 people and infected nearly a million people.

This is the first time that the UN has acknowledged that it bears a duty towards the victims. It is a significant step forward in the quest for accountability and justice.

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is frequently devastated by disasters -- both natural and man-made. Yet cholera was not one of its problems before 2010. Then a group of UN peacekeepers was sent to help after an earthquake.

The UN did not screen its peacekeepers for cholera, nor did it build adequate toilet facilities in its peacekeeping camps. As a result, wastewater carrying cholera flowed directly into a tributary that feeds Haiti's main river. Given that vast numbers of the population rely on the Artibonite river for washing, cooking, cleaning and drinking, cholera quickly spread around many parts of the country. The disease is now endemic within the country. People continue to die at an alarming rate by this preventable and treatable disease.

The UN has also refused to provide a mechanism through which victims can seek remedies. Peacekeeping missions are legally bound to set up claims boards for victims of civil wrongs, but this has not occurred in Haiti. A class action suit has been brought to New York district and appellate courts, but the UN has refused to appear before those courts and has hidden behind the shield of immunity from the jurisdiction of national courts. Advocacy groups have lobbied the UN and member states to provide political resolution, but none has been forthcoming.

Accepting Guilt

Now, with Ban Ki-Moon's tenure nearly finished, and with the Haiti situation remaining a stain on the UN's reputation, it seems as though the five-year impasse may be coming to an end.

The New York Times has reported that a spokesperson for the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, whose tenure is nearly finished, wrote in a leaked email: "Over the past year, the UN has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera." He added that a "new response" would be made public in the coming months after it had been "agreed with the Haitian authorities."

There have been many efforts to encourage resolution, including from UN independent experts on human rights, former UN officials and from some member states. Many of the candidates to become the next UN secretary-general have pledged to address the issue if appointed to that job.

There have been public calls for Ban Ki-Moon to move away from his position. There needs to be a concerted effort to ensure that any resolution package, should one be agreed, meets the needs of the cholera victims -- given the political instability in Haiti.

Making Amends

Experts, academics, ambassadors to the UN and former UN officials have long discussed what a political resolution to this situation might look like. We believe there are three crucial aspects to any resolution package. There must be financial compensation, efforts to prevent the spread of the disease and a public apology.

In situations of mass harm, compensation is usually awarded through a lump sum payment or trust fund and a similar model could be used to compensate cholera victims in this case. Haiti does not have national laws and standards on compensation, but at the very least, financial compensation must be made available for the dependants of those who died from cholera and some form of remedies made available for those infected with the disease.

A strong cholera elimination plan is already in place in Haiti, focusing on water and sanitation, health, and preventing further infections. But it is woefully underfunded, which means that water treatment plants that have been built do not have sufficient electricity to run. Any resolution package must include support for this kind of work.

Finally, the cholera epidemic has significantly undermined the relationship between the UN and locals. An apology would be a starting point to rebuild the UN's credibility in Haiti. Apologies after Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Sri Lanka played a significant role in the healing process for the people affected by UN mistakes.

The Haiti cholera epidemic remains a blight on the reputation of the UN and its peacekeeping missions. That will only change with a resolution package. Whatever form that package takes, it must be decided transparently. It must be victim-centred and ensure that justice is done and is seen to be done. The leaked UN email demonstrates that there is some momentum brewing. It is crucial that is capitalised upon in a transparent, fair and just manner.

Rosa Freedman has received funding from AHRC, British Academiy, ESRC, Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, and Society of Legal Scholars. 

Nicolas Lemay-Hébert receives funding from Marie Curie, ESRC, AHRC and the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, and Society of Legal Scholars.

The Conversation

Opinion Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Hillary Clinton's Not-So-New, Not-So-Worker-Friendly Economic Plan

Hillary Clinton's economic plan reads a lot like the policies of the Bill Clinton administration -- and Clintonomics repurposed many of the GOP proposals that came before it. Hillary Clinton's economic plan reads a lot like the policies of the Bill Clinton administration -- and Clintonomics repurposed many of the GOP proposals that came before it. (Photo: Ronald Woan / Flickr)

Hillary Clinton is having a lot of fun taking shots at Donald Trump's economic plan to make America "great" again. She calls it an extreme version of the Republicans' failed theory of trickle-down economics.

The Trump plan would, of course, be a disaster for working people -- and another windfall for the rich, with its proposals for eliminating the estate tax and opening up new tax loopholes for the wealthy.

But Clinton's own economic plan isn't very new, much less positive for working people. It reads a lot like the policies of the Bill Clinton administration -- and while Hillary denounces the failed Republican policies recycled by Trump, the truth is Clintonomics repurposed many of the GOP proposals that came before it.

Providing targeted tax breaks to corporations, cutting "red tape" and doing away with regulations on business were all hallmarks of the Clinton-era policies that successfully made a break from the Democrats' past image of the party of social welfare spending.

And no matter what she says on the campaign trail to appeal for votes, a new Clinton administration -- like the Clinton administration she served in the 1990s -- will have little to offer in the way of policies to improve the lives of working-class Americans. But when it comes to Corporate America -- well, that's a different story.


At a stop on the Clinton campaign's "jobs tour," the candidate addressed reporters at the Futuramic plant in Detroit, where they make nose cones for the F-35 fighter plane.

The choice of a manufacturer of parts for the U.S. military as the site of her speech sent a little message about what Clinton has in store in terms of her administration's spending priorities.

But beyond that, Clinton had a message to send to her supporters in the corporate boardroom:

And here's something that you don't always hear enough of from Democrats: a big part of our plan will be unleashing the power of the private sector to create more jobs at higher pay. And that means for us, creating an infrastructure bank to get private funds off the sidelines and complement our private investments. $25 billion in government seed funding could unlock more than $250 billion and really get our country moving on our infrastructure plans.

What should we make of this happy talk?

First off, Barack Obama promised an infrastructure bank back in 2008 -- a federal fund to create jobs rebuilding the country's infrastructure, such as bridges, transportation system, dams, etc. Obama promised a different amount -- $60 billion to create 2 million jobs -- but it didn't matter much, because the proposal never happened.

So when Hillary Clinton makes the same promise, we should remember two things about her former boss's record: First, when Republicans had control in Congress, they stopped at nothing to obstruct Democratic legislative proposals. And second, even when the GOP was in the minority during Obama's first two years, the Democrats didn't fight for what they promised.

That's why Hillary Clinton can promise the moon, knowing that she'll never have to deliver.

As Doug Henwood, author of My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency, said in a Real News interview:

I just really am very skeptical that anything will come of a lot of these proposals ... [D]uring the primary campaign, people said about the Bernie Sanders proposal: well, how would he get it through Congress? I have the same question for Hillary, but she doesn't seem to get the same question with the same frequency or intensity: How would she get that through Congress?


As for Clinton's call for Democrats to start "unleashing the power of the private sector," that idea isn't new either. The "New" Democrats of the Democratic Leadership Council, with Bill Clinton at the helm, were pushing this line decades ago.

Under the Clinton administration, Vice President Al Gore was put in charge of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, which set out "reforms" of government programs that really meant cutting federal spending and embracing market-based solutions, such as privatization.

So for example, "reinventing" the Occupation Safety and Health Administration meant slashing funds for enforcement of regulations that stop workers from getting injured or sick on the job -- and instead focusing on a "partnership" where management policed itself.

So Democrats talking about "unleashing the power of the private sector" isn't novel, nor has it been a good thing for workers. The results of the federal "partnership" with the private sector overall were as expected -- funding for social programs were cut in the interest of market-based solutions.

Between 1992 and 2000, support for education decreased by 24 percent; science by 19 percent; income security by 18 percent; and transportation by 10 percent, according to Robert Pollin writing in the Nation.

The theory behind the New Democrats' neoliberal policies was that their party shouldn't seek to curb corporate influence over every aspect of life, but to increase it. So when Hillary Clinton talks about all the jobs that are going to be created in the U.S., her focus is on what the government can give to corporations to create them -- but with no guarantee that business will do what's asked of them.

For instance, the Clinton campaign touts its proposal to spend $10 billion on "Make it in America" partnerships -- a jingoistic effort to bribe U.S-based multinational corporations to manufacture in the U.S.

She also proposes a new tax credit for companies that adopt a profit-sharing plan for their workers, calling it "a more progressive, more patriotic tax code that puts American jobs first." Clinton emphasizes how the profit-sharing scheme "gives everyone a stake in the company's success can boost productivity and put money directly into employees' pockets. It's a win-win."

In other words, Clinton wants to encourages "cooperation" between workers and bosses by tying wages to how well a corporation is doing. That's a win for bosses, not workers.

Clinton calls for tax credits for companies that agree to offer apprenticeships. Translation: Give corporations money for hiring young workers at bargain-rate wages. Clinton will also offer national initiatives to "cut red tape" and expand access to credit to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

So Clinton's plan for creating jobs isn't actually about creating jobs, but about providing incentives -- federal funding, tax breaks, eliminating red tape, etc. -- that will supposedly encourage businesses to create jobs.

Sounds more and more like a variation on the trickle-down plans of the Republicans that Clinton loves to denounce on the campaign trail.

As for workers, Hillary Clinton suggests more education and job training. In order to help with crushing student loan debt, she's proposing -- no, not debt forgiveness -- to make it "easier to refinance and repay what you owe as a portion of your income, so you don't have to pay more than you can afford."

But if you're in college and decide to become an entrepreneur, then Clinton might forgive your student loans.


So if Hillary Clinton is rehashing many of the same policies that she supported during the Clinton-Gore administration, they must have worked out well, right?

If you ask Corporate America, the Clinton years went swimmingly. As Lance Selfa, author of Democrats: A Critical History, wrote:

From Wall Street's point of view, Clinton's eight years in office have to be viewed as a smashing success ... Inflation dropped to imperceptible levels, and in May 2000, unemployment hit a 30-year low of 3.9 percent. Between 1992 and 1997, corporate profits grew by an average of 15 percent annually. The U.S. had clearly zoomed ahead as the world's leading economy.

Jobs were created during the Bill Clinton administration, Selfa points out, but the majority of them were low-wage. Half paid less than $7 an hour, and many workers seeking full-time jobs couldn't find anything but part-time.

Workers felt another hit after Clinton-era economic boom went bust in the early 2000s, and then more spectacularly with the Great Recession in 2008. More than ever, working people needed social services -- but they had been "reinvented" by the Clinton administration and were no longer there.

Then again, maybe we don't need to worry about what Hillary Clinton is promising to do -- since she's hardly high on the list of promise-keeping politicians.

Take the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the economic deal that she promises as a candidate to oppose. But she not only vocally supported it in the past, one of her top surrogates, Terry McAuliffe said during the Democratic convention that she would flip-flop once she got into the Oval Office.

That wouldn't be much of a surprise, since the TPP is in keeping with the Clinton Democrats' decades-old philosophy toward trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement: What's good for business is good for Clinton.

Another example. Clinton talks about creating green jobs -- but it's worth recalling that as Secretary of State, she promoted the use of environmentally devastating hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- as she visited governments around the globe.

Likewise, Clinton says she supports unions. But supporting unions at campaign events is easy, especially if you know the union leadership is solidly behind you and the heads of corporations know you're just talking.

On paper, Clinton supports the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would require businesses to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted to join. But she doesn't talk about it, and we shouldn't expect her to start in the White House.

Barack Obama promised to make passing EFCA a priority when he was campaigning in 2008, but even with a Democratic supermajority in Congress during his first two years, the measure was allowed to die on the vine.

And nowhere in her economic plan is there even the most basic defense of the idea of a social safety net -- because Hillary Clinton doesn't really support one.

After a Democratic primary in which Bernie Sanders highlighted rising income inequality and argued for a return to the so-called core values of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton's economic program appears almost unchanged by the discussion. Clinton could hardly wait to turn the page on Sanders so she could focus on Trump.

That's the inevitable outcome of the dead-end of lesser-evil politics in the U.S. -- where a Democrat who positions herself just to the left of an increasingly right-wing Republican Party can be called a "friend of working people" because not quite as bad as the "greater evil."

Opinion Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
As the Private Immigrant Detention Business Persists, Families Fight Back

Every day, the US's broken immigration system and backward policies tear apart many families, to the great benefit of private prison companies. These companies receive millions of federal dollars for running 62 percent of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities.

Moussa and his daughter Sophia. (Photo: Victoria Gibson)Moussa and his daughter Sophia. Moussa is now incarcerated in a detention center in Houston, Texas. (Photo: Victoria Gibson)Moussa came to the United States nine years ago seeking asylum. He lost his asylum case, but while appealing the decision, he fell in love with Victoria. The two were married and have three beautiful children together. Moussa also adopted Victoria's two children from a prior relationship. When Victoria filed for a family petition on his behalf in April 2015, they thought their immigration struggles were finally over. Sadly, they had just begun.

The last time I wrote about Moussa, he was sitting in a detention center in New Orleans and his family was praying that immigration authorities would exercise their discretion to stop his deportation and release him. At that time, Moussa was enduring his 10th month of incarceration. The following afternoon, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denied Moussa's request without informing his family or his attorneys at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

Three days later, ICE forcibly attempted to put Moussa on a plane to Chad. That Monday morning, June 27, 2016, Moussa called his advocates at AFSC to tell the story of his near-deportation. His voice was cracked and muffled over the phone as he explained how he was woken up gruffly at dawn, shackled at his ankles and handcuffed. How he was transported by van to an airport in Houston, where four ICE officers attempted to force him onto a plane without explanation. How he cried out for help and resisted permanent separation from his family by refusing to walk. How the officers aggressively attempted to strap him into a wheelchair and how he refused to sit still. How his deportation officer punched him in the neck with a closed fist and told him to "stop screaming like a pregnant woman."

Today, Moussa is sitting in a detention center in Houston, Texas, and his family is still waiting for him at home in Newark, New Jersey. It has been nearly a year since ICE took Moussa away from his home, his pregnant wife Victoria, and their four children. Now Moussa has a five-month-old baby girl he has never met. Our broken immigration system and backwards policies tear families like Moussa's apart every day.

But Victoria and her advocates at AFSC refuse to give up hope and are still fighting for Moussa's freedom. More than 16,000 people have signed a petition asking ICE to release Moussa to his family. Just two weeks after ICE attempted to deport Moussa, Victoria traveled to Washington, DC, to tell their story. On July 13, 2016, AFSC staff sat alongside Victoria and her five young children on a couch in the office of Republican Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee. Despite facing possible eviction and struggling to maintain her family without Moussa, Victoria spoke with strength and poise. She talked about the pain inflicted on her children by Moussa's prolonged detention and the hardship of living in constant fear of losing her husband forever.

Moussa's family and his attorney Mich Gonzalez (the author of this piece) travel to Washington, D.C., to advocate for his release. (Photo: Carl Roose / AFSC)Moussa's family and his attorney Mich Gonzalez travel to Washington, DC, to advocate for his release. (Photo: Carl Roose / AFSC)

AFSC staff stressed that Moussa's family was one of thousands torn apart by policies like the detention quota, which is a federal policy that mandates that 34,000 spaces for immigrant detainees be maintained every day. It means that people like Moussa and thousands of others are detained unnecessarily for long periods of time. And it means that private prison companies -- which run 62 percent of ICE detention facilities -- receive millions of dollars in federal funds as a result. These facilities will not be impacted by the US Justice Department's decision to stop renewing contracts with private prison companies because ICE detention is controlled by the Department of Homeland Security, not the Bureau of Prisons.

Congressman Fleischmann serves on the Department of Homeland Security's Appropriations Subcommittee. AFSC urged the congressman's office, among others, to eliminate the detention quota included in the bills passed by the Appropriations Committees in both the House and the Senate. We also emphasized the importance of supporting bill H.R. 2808: Protecting Taxpayers and Communities from Local Detention Quotas Act, introduced by Democratic Rep. Theodore E. Deutch of Florida. The passage of this bill would be one important step toward making immigration proceedings less punitive and removing the profit motive from these proceedings.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement confiscated Moussa's personal belongings -- including his prayer beads and wedding ring -- and mailed them to his attorney. (Photo: Kathy Heim / AFSC)Immigration and Customs Enforcement confiscated Moussa's personal belongings -- including his prayer beads and wedding ring -- and mailed them to his attorney. (Photo: Kathy Heim / AFSC)

After the visit, Moussa's family, AFSC, and other immigrant rights organizations are continuing to push for an end to the detention quota. Starting August 22, they are calling for a Week of Action to End the Quota and urging people across the country to get involved.

Moussa was a small-business owner supporting his family and paying taxes. Now his prolonged detention means his family struggles to survive, even with government assistance. We must continue to make the case to Congress that failed policies like the quota cause wide-sweeping enforcement at a steep cost to taxpayers. Denying a person freedom and access to their loved ones should not be based on a profit-driven demand to fill a predetermined number of jail beds. It's time to end the quota and bring Moussa home.

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Opinion Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400
How Sanders Shaped the National Discourse on Class: A Media Analysis

Bernie Sanders leaves the stage 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 leaves the stage 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' campaign, like Occupy before it, has dramatically shaped the national discourse by raising class consciousness and planting the seeds that make real change more plausible. Those who helped in this effort should feel empowered, not disillusioned by the fruits of their labor.

Bernie Sanders leaves the stage 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 leaves the stage 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)

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Now that Bernie Sanders' campaign is officially over, many of his supporters are adrift. The same week the Sanders' campaign officially ended, the systematic efforts of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to sabotage his campaign became a matter of public record, thanks to WikiLeaks. The media largely ignored this scandal and proceeded to fawn over various politicians at the Democratic National Convention, as if they were deities. And Bob Woodward appeared on the August 14 Fox News Sunday, smugly joking that Sanders will now "write his memoirs about the revolution that didn't quite happen."

But Sanders supporters should not get disillusioned. It may seem easy to forget, but the primary goal of the Sanders' campaign was not the presidency, but a "political revolution."  Winning an election was a goal, to be sure, but "revolution" was the goal. The distinction matters. Consider the dictionary definition of revolution: "a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system." Electing Sanders wouldn't have been a revolutionary act by itself; the bulk of the work, no matter who won, was always going to take place after Election Day.

For more original Truthout election coverage, check out our election section, "Beyond the Sound Bites: Election 2016."

Despite losing the primary, Sanders' campaign planted important seeds that make his larger goals more plausible. This is not primarily because he has pushed Hillary Clinton (rhetorically anyway) to the left, or helped improve the language on the Democrats' (mostly toothless) platform.

The most significant impact of the Sanders campaign was that it mobilized millions of people using the language of class relations. A Truthout analysis shows a strong correlation between the Sanders campaign and measurable changes in media coverage, public opinion, political debates, public polling, internet trends and more. Sanders lost the election, but he has expanded the debate and helped raise class consciousness.

This is not just a moral victory. As Bertell Ollman, a political science professor at New York University writes, "A socialist revolution requires a class conscious working class." The campaign, like the Occupy movement that preceded it, shaped much of the national discourse in class terms. Sanders repeatedly lamented the "billionaire class," and the "massive gap between the very rich and working class Americans." Occupy was much more pointed, describing class struggle as being between the 99% and the top 1%.

The language isn't identical. Occupy's 99% slogan is a reference to the disproportionate economic gains that have gone to the wealthiest 1percent in the last 50 years or so. Sanders is referencing people who struggle to gain financial security in this economy -- low/middle income earners, the unemployed, the poor. This describes most of the country, but certainly not 99 percent of it.

Indeed, there are other major differences between Occupy and the Sanders' campaign, most notably the fact that Occupy paid no attention to electoral politics. But the similarities are important. Both took aim at the ownership class, its greed and its control over the political system. Furthermore, their existence and growth reflects growing discontent and economic anxiety by Americans who want to be engaged in changing the system. This, even more than a progressive president, is required for the kind of social change that could be viewed as revolutionary to occur.

Neoliberalism's Impact on the Working Class

Class consciousness has ebbed and flowed throughout US history, peaking in the 1920s and '30s. But it has been extremely limited during the last 50 years of neoliberalism, as wages have stagnated despite a rapid increase in productivity (see figure 1). In the 1970s we saw the "advent of 'neoliberal' capitalism," as Dollars & Sense described it -- the "triumph of an economic policy agenda hostile to government economic intervention, social welfare programs, and labor organization," which was part of a broader shift to the right. But while working class anxiety and financial insecurity both rose during this period, for decades, organized mobilization from the working class did not rise up to resist it.

Figure 1. The attack on labor: real wages and productivity in the US, 1960-2000. (Source: Robert Pollin/University of Massachusetts, reprinted with permission)Figure 1. The attack on labor: real wages and productivity in the US, 1960-2000. (Source: Robert Pollin/University of Massachusetts, reprinted with permission)

Neoliberalism still persists today as the dominant ideology, but it also faces strong, organized resistance -- and the Sanders campaign is one reflection of this. "Sanders is trying to break from neoliberalism," Steve Maher of York University told Truthout in late 2015.

Sanders managed to place socialism -- however hazily defined -- into the US mainstream for the first time in generations. This was unthinkable in the years before Occupy; and the economic conditions it resisted, created conditions for Sanders to thrive nationally. This, in addition to the millions of dedicated (often young) activists Sanders has mobilized, has laid the groundwork for more Americans to have real conversations about the ways in which US capitalism has failed the working class. The Sanders movement, of course, comes just seven years after the economic system nearly collapsed (spared only by taxpayers' unwitting subsidization of the big banks' losses) and five years after the birth of Occupy Wall Street -- the most meaningful act of resistance to the neoliberal era in the US since the World Trade Organization protests of 1999 in Seattle.

Sanders' Impact on Media Coverage

Part of Sanders' success in influencing the national debate can be seen in his impact on media coverage. The very same corporations that helped fund his opponents, including Hillary Clinton (the largest recipient of donations from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (whose largest donor is Comcast), are also owners of most of the dominant media outlets. These outlets effectively set the agenda of US political debate. Sanders, despite being a mainstream Roosevelt-style Keynesian, generally speaking, was viewed as a threat because he challenges the domination of massive centers of power, such as Wall Street, the health insurance sector and, as the DNC leaks proved, the Democratic Party.

It is no surprise that dominant media outlets attempted to marginalize Sanders, sometimes brazenly. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) documented how The Washington Post published 16 negative stories about Sanders on its website within 16 hours. But Sanders was able -- like no other left-leaning candidate in a century -- to crack the veneer of the media's systemic bias in favor of the dominant neoliberal ideology.

This can be seen by examining how media coverage changed during the height of Sanders' visibility and influence, particularly in the "paper of record," The New York Times. Consider, for instance, Sanders' position that the United States should have a national, single-payer health care system that covers the entire population. Having a public, universal system is the norm in the industrialized world, and the US public has long supported one. Despite this, mainstream politicians and pundits have (sometimes literally) portrayed it as a deceptive push toward Soviet-style Bolshevism. But after years of this policy solution being dismissed, Sanders helped to bring it to the mainstream.

Measuring the Times' news coverage at the peak of the Sanders campaign, from January through the end of March 2016 (when Sanders was competitive in many primaries), is instructive. The paper had 41 articles that referenced the term "single-payer." This is by far the most attention the newspaper has given the concept in at least a decade (see Figure 2), when there was an average of 16 articles during that same span in the last 10 years. In fact, this 41-article total exceeds the number of articles mentioning single-payer in the previous five years combined (39).

Figure 2: Sanders and coverage of 'single-payer' in The New York Times. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)Figure 2: Sanders and coverage of 'single-payer' in The New York Times. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)

This correlation between Sanders' visibility in the public eye and increased attention to crucial issues does not end with health care. As we see in Figure 3, the Times had an increase of articles mentioning the following issues, all major parts of Sanders' platform: inequality, campaign finance, Medicare for All, socialism, tuition-free college and establishment politics. During the peak of his campaign, the Times referenced inequality in 281 articles. In the previous 10 years, the average number of times this was mentioned in that same span was 105. For campaign finance the ratio was 135 to 94. For "free college," it was 26 to two. It should be noted, this data is limited to articles that ended up in the print edition, to help account for the increase in online-only publications over the last few years. Of course, as in much of the social sciences, there are infinite variables that can impact media output. But the correlations seen here are strong enough to suggest that Sanders quite likely played a major role in this shift in coverage.

Figure 3: Sanders' effect on The New York Times on other issues. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)Figure 3: Sanders' effect on The New York Times on other issues. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)

Also of note is that Sanders' decision to run for president was not enough for him to radically impact the coverage of issues. The dominant media, as one might predict, had managed to keep Sanders from penetrating the debate for quite a while. It took some hard work and success from his supporters and his voters to force the media to tackle the issues on which his campaign was running.

It wasn't until the Sanders campaign took off among the public that the media shift became significant. Of the 89 times "single-payer" was mentioned in the Times during the first 12 months of his campaign, 41 of the articles -- just under 47 percent of the total -- took place in January, February and March (see Figure 4). There was no pronounced spike in coverage of the issue when he announced his candidacy; in the first two months of his campaign, the term was used just five times in total. The correlation suggests strongly that the issue was pushed into the national debate by the campaign when it was at the peak of its reach and influence.

It is important to note that measuring output is not the same as measuring tone or fairness. While studies will surely be done to assess this, it is logical to predict that much of the coverage of the Sanders campaign was negative or aimed at marginalizing his ideas, as Truthout has documented. The fact that Sanders has been able to penetrate the mainstream debate should not be interpreted as confirmation that the media has changed in its structural, institutional biases. However, that these issues were raised at all -- even if they were attacked -- reflects progress from previous years when they were largely ignored.

Figure 4: Sanders' Influence During Peak Months of Campaign. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)Figure 4: Sanders' Influence During Peak Months of Campaign. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)

In the Shadow of Occupy

It would be remiss not to note that Occupy Wall Street -- which emerged about five years ago -- had a major impact on the national debate around economic justice. The very concept that "we are the 99%" vs. "the 1%" is the manifestation of class struggle, and such terminology is now commonly used in political discourse, is in large part due to Occupy.

As with the Sanders campaign, we can observe shifts in elite media coverage during the peak of Occupy's influence. As a previous Truthout analysis showed, in the four months following the start of Occupy, there was a major increase in articles referencing income inequality in the Times, when compared to the coverage of the same time period (September 17-January 17) going back 10 years (see Figure 5). There were 357 references to "income inequality" in the Times for this period, 151 of which mention Occupy. In the previous 10 years, the range was 25-131, with an average of 63.9 references. Similar correlating increases in coverage existed in other media, such as The Washington Post, and major broadcast outlets (see Figures 6 and 7).

Figure 5: Occupy's Influence on the Media, Part 1. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)Figure 5: Occupy's Influence on the Media, Part 1. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)

Figure 6: Occupy's Influence on the Media, Part 2. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)Figure 6: Occupy's Influence on the Media, Part 2. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)

Figure 7: Occupy's Influence on the Media, Part 3. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)Figure 7: Occupy's Influence on the Media, Part 3. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)

Just as Woodward mocked Sanders as a failure, many establishment liberals have labeled Occupy in much the same way, complaining that the movement failed to help Democrats win elections or pointing out the fact that the occupations were shut down. Yet Occupy's impact on the national discourse was undeniable, and it struck fear in the hearts of the establishment.

"I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death," said Frank Luntz, a famous Republican strategist who focuses on political messaging, during the Occupy movement. "They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism." Luntz advised GOP candidates not to use the word "capitalism" because members of the public "think capitalism is immoral."

In many ways, these types of real shifts in public consciousness helped create the conditions for Sanders' campaign to thrive. The question we face now is what actions and mobilizations have become possible under the conditions the Sanders campaign has helped create.

The Sanders campaign, in contrast to Occupy, was focused on a specific leader and electoral politics (the merits of which have long been debated among the left). But Occupy's influence on the national debate was no small matter, and it created the conditions for someone like Sanders to emerge. The movements are distinct but they also are undeniably connected by ideology and class-based language.

It would also be remiss not to mention the growth of Black Lives Matters. While not as explicitly focused on class and inequality, it has been a blossoming movement protesting the crises of unarmed Black men being killed by police officers. It has had protests in virtually every major city in the US, writes Khury Peterson-Smith in the International Socialist Review, and has advanced broader issues of Black struggle, including economic ones. The group has worked with Palestine Solidarity Activists and Native Americans, among other alliances, Peterson-Smith reports. Perhaps most impressively, like Occupy, it has refused to capitulate to establishment politicians, including the Democratic Party, who they have protested in confrontational but effective ways. Despite confronting Sanders in a controversial protest in 2015, for instance, by the height of his campaign it was clear they had an impact on his campaign and rhetoric.

How Class Struggle Was Discussed on National TV

The fact that Bernie Sanders would have a major impact on the national debate may have first become obvious during the initial primary debates. Early in the debate schedule Clinton was attacked directly for taking money from Wall Street. She was also pointedly attacked by both Sanders and Martin O'Malley for her weak stance on reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act and her closeness with the likes of Robert Rubin.

Rubin is former Goldman Sachs CEO and Clinton treasury secretary who was an architect of much of the Clinton-era deregulation that has hurt the country. He has long been disliked by the left, but his name was not well known by casual followers of the news. Watching Sanders demand that Clinton explain her Wall Street donations (shamelessly using 9/11 to do so) and her closeness to all of the Rubinites (such as Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner) at a debate among Democrats, on national television, was remarkable. This entire discussion about campaign finance and the deregulation of the Clinton years would have previously been out of the "bounds of the expressible." The whole Sanders campaign may have been worth it if it just produced that one single moment in time.

But putting anecdotes aside, analyzing the transcripts of the nine debates involving Bernie Sanders from 2015-16, compared with the last nine debates of the 2007-08 schedule (compiled by the American Presidency Project) also show that Sanders' influence on the national conversation extended into the debates in a significant way. (Note: the data uses the last nine of the 2007-08 primary debates, since that primary season had many more debates scheduled -- an issue of considerable tension between Sanders and the DNC's Debbie Wasserman Schultz.)

Most of the issues that are central to Sanders' platform, such as single-payer health care, campaign finance reform and income inequality were largely ignored by all the candidates in 2008. However, during the nine debates including Sanders in 2015-16, "single-payer" or "Medicare for All," was mentioned 38 times (see Figure 8). In contrast, these terms were only used five times in the 2008 debates, and four of these references were when Clinton used the term as a pejorative, to hurt then-Sen. Obama (who used to support single-payer, before becoming a national figure).

Campaign finance was another major staple of Sanders' campaign. During the 2015-16 debates, the words "campaign finance reform," or "campaign donations," or "corporate donations,"  (most of them from Sanders) were mentioned 79 times (see Figure 8). Virtually every mention was in the context of the grip corporate America has on the US political system. In the 2008 debates, the issue was ignored entirely; it was mentioned only one time in the final nine primary debates. During each debate featuring Sanders, more than 10 million viewers were getting a civics lesson in just how much influence corporations have over the US political system in general, and over Hillary Clinton in particular. Educating the public on how wealthy elites rig the system is a clear case of raising class consciousness, and as we have seen before, these conversations did not take place in previous debates.

Indeed, the mention of there being a "working class" that is exploited by a billionaire class was a major theme of the debates in 2016. During the 2016 debates the phrases "working class," or "working Americans," was mentioned 79 times -- an average of 8.7 times a debate. In the previous contested Democratic primary these phrases were used just 29 times. (Also see Figure 8). Again, not all of this can be attributed to Sanders; the 2008 Democratic primary took place prior to the 2008 economic crisis, and foreign policy and Iraq were bigger issues during the primary stage of the election. There can be no doubt, however, that Sanders put many of the interests of "workers" front and center during his debates.

Politicians, including Sanders, also still talk about the needs of the "middle class," but this term -- often used by politicians to seem empathetic to everyone but the poor -- is borderline useless these days. There is no consensus metric as to how to measure if someone is "middle class," and estimates from even progressive economists, such as Robert Reich, have suggested someone making $25,500 annually -- the equivalent of only $12.50 an hour -- would be on the low end of the middle class. This is clearly problematic and when 76 percent of the country lives "paycheck to paycheck," as CNN has reported, it is hard to find a lot of room for a middle class to exist. Consequently, according to Pew Research, fewer people than ever before view themselves as being in the middle class.

Figure 8: Sanders Impact on Democratic Primary Debates (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)Figure 8: Sanders Impact on Democratic Primary Debates. (Source: Michael Corcoran / Truthout)

Class Curiosity: An Analysis of Internet Search Trends

It seems all of these civics lessons on television had a strong impact on the curiosity of Americans on the internet. An increased interest in class relations, single-payer health care, socialism and other key tenets of the Sanders campaign was also evident in 2015 and 2016. Google Trends enables users to examine search term trends. The results show that during the Sanders campaign there was a sizable increase of searches for terms like socialism, inequality and single-payer.

Consider the trend we see in Image 1. Unsurprisingly we see searches for "Bernie Sanders" go up dramatically as his campaign reached its peak. What is more notable, however, is that those using Google Search in the US also used the term "socialism" more than at any time since Google started showing this kind of data. And the blue line in the image (representing searches for "socialism") corresponded in a nearly virtually identical pattern to the red line (representing searches for "Bernie Sanders").

Google Trends also reveals significant increases in searches from US users for the terms "income inequality," "Medicare for All," "paid family leave, "neoliberalism" and "free tuition" (see Images 2-6).

Searches for "Socialism," "Bernie Sanders." (Source: Google Trends)Searches for "Socialism," "Bernie Sanders." (Source: Google Trends)

Searches for "income inequality." (Source: Google Trends)Searches for "income inequality." (Source: Google Trends)

Searches for "Medicare for All." (Source: Google Trends)Searches for "Medicare for All." (Source: Google Trends)

Searches for "paid family leave." (Source: Google Trends)Searches for "paid family leave." (Source: Google Trends)

Searches for "neoliberalism." (Source: Google Trends)Searches for "neoliberalism." (Source: Google Trends)

Searches for "free tuition." (Source: Google Trends)Searches for "free tuition." (Source: Google Trends)

All of this data suggests that the Sanders campaign had a tangible influence on public interest in and curiosity about issues that have long been ignored by establishment media and politicians.  And this is in addition to the simple fact that Sanders earned 13 million votes, won 23 states, broke fundraising records through small donations and polled extremely well nationally, versus Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. And just like during Occupy, this scenario made many elites nervous. Luntz, the Republican strategist who had expressed anguish over Occupy, also expressed his fear about Sanders' nefarious influence, saying he was unable to believe that an "avowed socialist" was "drawing more than 10,000 people per appearance."

Is This a "Turning Point in American Life?"

In February 2012, David Meyer, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine, and author of the book, The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America, said in an interview about Occupy with NPR: "There's a better than reasonable chance that we are at this turning point in American life and American politics." He said this in light of the widespread discontent expressed through the social movements of the time in the aftermath of an economic crisis that exposed how rigged the financial system was.

Perhaps Meyer was right to suspect change was afoot. Since he made that comment, Thomas Piketty's critique of capitalism has become a global best-seller and a self-described "socialist" came close to beating Hillary Clinton -- arguably one of the country's most powerful politicians -- in a major primary. Meanwhile, polls since 2011 have shown that young people prefer socialism to capitalism. Since the Sanders campaign grew, this preference became true among Democratic voters of all ages. In sum, according to a Gallup Poll from June, 47 percent of the country would consider voting for a socialist candidate -- all of this is despite decades of post-Cold War, neoliberal dogma disparaging the term socialism while turning US "free-market" economics into a belief held with almost religious fervor among elites.

Years before his death in 2010, radical historian Howard Zinn wrote an essay about how he stays positive in a world filled with so much injustice. "I keep encountering people who, in spite of all the evidence of terrible things happening everywhere, give me hope. Wherever I go, I find such people, especially young people, in whom the future rests," he wrote in A Marvelous Victory. "But they tend not to know of one another's existence.... I try to tell each group that they are not alone, and that the very people who are disheartened by the absence of a national movement are themselves proof of the potential for such a movement."

Zinn's statements are a reminder that, just a few years ago, there was no national movement for revolutionary change. The very existence of which, his friend Noam Chomsky would later say at Occupy Boston, was "the dream of his life." Zinn didn't live to see that dream but everyone who participated in, or even witnessed from afar, the Sanders' campaign and Occupy knows that we finally have a national movement, which has found success in the streets, in the media and in the voting booths. This is a major development. People fighting for social change know they are not alone. And the boulder is much further up the mountain than it may seem at times.

A progressive president would surely be helpful in bringing about social change. But a working class with strong class consciousness is vital for such change to occur. What matters isn't who the president is so much as what has become of the ethos of US politics today that has made Sanders (and Occupy) possible. The Sanders campaign is over. But, there are many signs suggesting that the political revolution he seeks is just getting started.

News Tue, 23 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400