Truthout Stories Tue, 26 Jul 2016 09:54:12 -0400 en-gb Turkish Academics Fear Growing Witch Hunt Following Failed Coup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He sighed. 

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

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News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Aging People in Prison Face Continuing Denial of Compassionate Release

Under compassionate release, people who are over the age of 65, suffer from chronic or serious medical conditions and have served at least half their sentence can apply to be released early, allowing them to spend their remaining days at home with their family and loved ones. However, compassionate release is granted infrequently.

Mary Ziman, serving 27 years in prison, hopes for compassionate release. (Photo courtesy of CAN-DO)Mary Ziman, serving 27 years in prison, hopes for compassionate release. (Photo courtesy of CAN-DO)The following article could only be published thanks to support from our readers. To fund more stories like it, make a donation to Truthout by clicking here!

On June 23, 2016, Mary Rose Ziman received devastating news. Her request for compassionate release had been denied.

As reported earlier, the 67-year-old suffers from debilitating fibromyalgia, has three cancerous spots on her left lung, requires the use of three inhalers and has only 51 percent lung capacity. She is blind in one eye and has a cataract in the other. She has been hospitalized numerous times during her 17 years in prison. Her latest hospitalization occurred in March 2016; she spent 10 days in the hospital for a kidney infection stemming from an untreated urinary tract infection.

Between 2009 and 2013, the number of people ages 50 and older in federal prisons increased by 25 percent, making them the fastest-growing segment. The increase is not a result of an influx of older people into the prison system; rather, people serving lengthy sentences are aging behind bars. At the end of 2013, aging people comprised 26 percent of those held in minimum-security prisons, 23 percent in low-security prisons, and 33 percent in prison medical centers.  

Ziman applied for executive clemency, which would have lessened her 27-year sentence and allowed her to return home early. Her petition was denied in April 2016, shortly after she returned from the hospital. Ziman then filed a petition for compassionate release.

Mary Ziman before she was hospitalized for ten days for an untreated urinary tract infection. (Photo courtesy of Corey Ziman)Mary Ziman before she was hospitalized for 10 days for an untreated urinary tract infection. (Photo courtesy of Corey Ziman)Under compassionate release, people who are over the age of 65, suffer from chronic or serious medical conditions and have served at least half their sentence can apply to be released early, allowing them to spend their remaining days at home with their family and loved ones. The person must write a request to the prison's warden, who then issues either an approval or a denial. If approved, the request is then referred to the director of the Bureau of Prisons.

Compassionate release has been granted infrequently. From August 12, 2013, to September 12, 2014, 2,621 federal prisoners applied for compassionate release. Of those, 320 requests were approved by the prisons. The director of the Bureau of Prisons approved only 111 of those requests. Of those, only 85 people were ultimately released.

Like Ziman, 85-year-old Benjamin Share was initially denied compassionate release despite having suffered a heart attack while in prison. But his daughter Linda refused to give up, mounting a legal fight that cost her thousands of dollars and involving her local senator Pat Toomey. In June 2014, Share was released and allowed to return home. He died less than 48 hours later.

"Over the years with my father I was very lucky to work with some amazing people who wrote articles and/or included his situation in their research," his daughter Linda Share wrote in an email to Truthout after reading about Mary Ziman. "Today I must credit those authors and researchers with the fact that he did come home and he was aware that he was home."

Staff and administrators at the federal prison in Victorville, California, denied Ziman's request. "Specifically the Medical Department advised, at the present time, that your medical condition does not represent extraordinary or compelling circumstances which would require a compassionate release, or a reduction in sentence," stated the paperwork signed by Calvin Johnson, the warden. It continued:

Medical has also determined that the medical records show your recounting of the seriousness of your medical conditions and allegations are quite exaggerated. While you do have numerous conditions, and undoubtedly suffer from chronic pain, these conditions are not at stages which would reduce your life expectancy, or cause you to be incapable of functioning in your current prison environment. Furthermore, besides your proposed cataract surgery, there is no 'surgical intervention (necessary) to prevent further unnecessary deterioration of my health,' and no malignancy. In your present condition, you can remain under the usual careful medical care of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Amy Povah, founder of the CAN-DO Foundation and a member of the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, has been advocating for Ziman's release. She was shocked to hear that Ziman was denied. "Mary meets ALL the criteria for a compassionate release," she wrote in an email to Truthout. "She's over 65, in poor health, she has served almost her entire sentence, over 17 years with perfect conduct, so if the BOP is going to deny Mary, there is virtually no hope for anyone receiving a compassionate release, even if they qualify in every way."

In early July, two weeks after denying her compassionate release petition, prison administrators told her to file again for compassionate release, this time based on her age. She did so and her petition is now at the Bureau of Prisons’ Central Office awaiting a decision.

Mary Ziman with Corey Ziman at the federal prison in Victorville after her March 2016 hospitalization. (Photo courtesy of Corey Ziman)Mary Ziman with Corey Ziman at the federal prison in Victorville after her March 2016 hospitalization. (Photo courtesy of Corey Ziman)

Her family has not given up though they’ve learned to be cautious in their optimism. "It is hard on a family when your hopes get up and then it all comes crashing down," Ziman's son Corey wrote in an email to Truthout. "We have experienced this several times with the clemency, motions, and now the compassionate release. It does not get any easier from time to time." This time, the family had been more hopeful and had even secured housing in anticipation of Ziman's release. He said that prison administrators told Ziman to file another request. Meanwhile, he, his eight siblings and Ziman's 28 grandchildren (and two great-grandchildren) can only hope that she is released before any other medical disaster hits. "All we can do is hope for change and help where we can."

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Clinton Running Mate Tim Kaine Supported TPP, Offshore Drilling and Anti-Union, Right-to-Work Measures

As the Democratic National Convention begins in Philadelphia, tension is rising between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The Democratic National Committee chair, Florida Congressmember Debbie Wasserman Schultz, resigned Sunday following WikiLeaks' release of nearly 20,000 emails revealing how the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders. When Sanders speaks tonight at the Democratic convention, he is expected to praise the Democrats for agreeing to what he describes as the most progressive platform in Democratic Party history. But he lost a major battle with the platform when the Democratic National Committee defeated an amendment brought by his delegates to abolish superdelegates. We speak with Zaid Jilani of The Intercept, who reported on how the "DNC Votes to Keep Superdelegates, But Sets Some Conditions."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Democratic National Convention begins here today in Philadelphia, but tension is rising among supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. On Sunday, Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned following the release of nearly 20,000 emails revealing how the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders. The emails were released Friday by WikiLeaks.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Sanders is scheduled to speak at the Democratic convention tonight. According to his campaign, Sanders will state Hillary Clinton is by far superior to Donald Trump. He's also expected to praise the Democrats for agreeing to what he describes as the most progressive platform in Democratic Party history. But Sanders lost one major battle with the platform when the Democratic National Committee defeated an amendment brought by Sanders delegates to abolish superdelegates.

Joining us now is Zaid Jilani with The Intercept. His most recent article, "DNC Votes to Keep Superdelegates, But Sets Some Conditions."

Welcome, Zaid. It's great to have you with us, to be in person with you here in Philadelphia. Talk about this superdelegate challenge.

ZAID JILANI: So, the Sanders campaign brought a challenge to what's called the DNC's Rules Committee. The Rules Committee sets up various party functions and rules, and basically creates sort of the template for how presidential primaries are run every four years for the Democratic Party. Sanders's delegates brought a resolution basically saying that we should just abolish the superdelegate system. The superdelegates are basically unelected party elites who have basically an equal vote per delegate versus every pledged delegate, which are the delegates who are elected by the voters. Roughly 15 percent of the total delegate count is the superdelegates, and they tend to be party elites, such as former mayors or former elected officials. Some of them actually are currently paid lobbyists either for multinational corporations or for foreign governments. So the Sanders campaign was arguing that basically this was an undemocratic setup, that hundreds of these superdelegates had pledged their support to Clinton before even a single state had voted, tilting the race in her favor, tilting the delegate counts in her favor, and also using their own constituent list to back her. That amendment failed; 58 to, I believe, 108, that amendment was defeated.

There were a number of folks at the Rules Committee who had argued the current system allows for more diversity, which is sort of a curious argument, given that something like 58 percent of the superdelegates are men, which is nowhere near gender parity, which is actually a law for the pledged delegates, that each state convention has to send sort of a gender-paired delegation. And we had a number of sort of arguments like that, that were somewhat curious. And that amendment was defeated. However, there was another amendment that was offered later as a compromise, that basically said that the Clinton campaign and the Sanders campaign and the DNC would set up a so-called unity commission, and they recommended to that commission that all of the superdelegates who aren't currently elected officials or in high positions in the party, that their votes for presidential nominee would have to be bound to how their states voted in the actual election. So, that would actually pare back some of the power the superdelegates have in the system.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And for those who are not aware, how did the superdelegate situation develop originally?

ZAID JILANI: I mean, basically, it's a matter of, over a number of decades, we saw party leaders look at their own voters as sort of activists that would create a situation where, you know, maybe they would bring a candidate to the fore that the party elders oppose, that maybe is unelectable. You know, it was a way, basically, for the party to assert some level of control over the election. And the actual power of the superdelegates has diminished somewhat since they were first started. I think it was something closer to like 20 percent of delegates in 2008 were superdelegates, and this year it's 15 percent. So it's not -- it's not necessarily that they played a decisive role, but they've always sort of played a role in signaling where the party wants its nominee to be.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the leaked Democratic National Committee emails revealing how the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders. Sunday night, Hillary Clinton appeared on "60 Minutes" with her running mate, Tim Kaine, and she was asked by Scott Pelley about the leaked emails.

SCOTT PELLEY: You have people in the Democratic National Committee who are supposed to be, if you will, agnostic about who the nominee is going to be. And they seem to have their thumb on the scale for you. They seem to be working against Bernie Sanders, their fellow Democrat.

HILLARY CLINTON: Again, I don't know anything. I don't know anything about -- about these emails. I haven't followed it. But I'm very proud of the campaign that I ran, and I'm very proud of the campaign that Senator Sanders ran.

SCOTT PELLEY: In your view, any effort in the DNC to favor one candidate or another would have been improper?

HILLARY CLINTON: Again, I don't have -- I don't have any information about this, and so I can't answer specifically.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Hillary Clinton on "60 Minutes." Zaid Jilani, the significance of what she said?

ZAID JILANI: Well, it's interesting that Clinton was saying that, because her campaign actually put out a statement -- I believe it was either -- believe it was Saturday, but may have been Sunday -- saying that, "Hey, you know, these emails, they're part of a Russian conspiracy to hack the DNC to help Donald Trump." So, you know, her campaign had quite a bit more to say about it than she herself was willing to say. And they seem to be taking a posture of saying it's not really a big deal what's in these, you know, it's just a plot by a foreign government. So, it's interesting to see, you know, the candidate herself and the campaign sort of give conflicting messages there. But, you know, it is something that she should speak to. I think that there are a lot of people who voted in this primary, certainly the 13 million who backed Sanders, and I'm sure many other people who wanted to see, you know, if this process was run fairly. And I think these emails, to a large extent, show that it wasn't.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the signal that she sends for when Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigns as chair, but then is immediately hired as Hillary Clinton -- into her campaign?

ZAID JILANI: Well, it's interesting. It's sort of a lateral move for Debbie Wasserman Schultz, you could say, in the sense that the DNC was typically favoring Clinton. But also, you know, viewers should remember that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was actually one of the -- I believe one of the co-chairs of Clinton's primary campaign in 2008, right? You know, she had been loyal to Clinton for years and years and years. And it's simply not surprising that, you know, despite her stepping down at the DNC, that Clinton would feel like she owes her something. I mean, she's done a lot of work for her over the years.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk for a minute about Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's pick for vice president. This is Senator Sanders speaking on "Meet the Press" about Senator Kaine.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Tim is a very, very smart guy. He's a very nice guy. His political views are not my political views. He is more conservative than I am. Would I have preferred to see somebody like an Elizabeth Warren selected by Secretary Clinton? Yes, I would have.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Bernie Sanders. Zaid Jilani?

ZAID JILANI: Well, here, actually, another curious story we broke. So, on Thursday, which was two days before Kaine was picked, I actually spoke to Kaine. I interviewed him about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and he said that he was undecided on voting, you know, in favor or against. He said that in many ways it's an improvement over the status quo. He likes the intellectual property protections, which would, of course, raise drug prices for the very poor. Two days later, the Clinton campaign did damage control. An anonymous aide told The Huffington Post, "Oh, you know, Kaine, he opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership now, just like we do, because in this form, you know, it's not acceptable." So it's interesting that in two days there was such a swing in what he was saying publicly about this.

And I think that's what Sanders is talking about. You know, Kaine, I've known him for years. I've followed his career. I think he's an ethical man. He's a public servant. There's no doubt about that. But he tends to side with business interests over labor. You know, he supported so-called right to work. He has, in the past, until two days ago, supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He has supported offshore drilling off the coast of Virginia. He has definitely deferred to business and corporations in ways that I think Bernie Sanders doesn't want, and I think probably the majority of Democratic voters in America don't want.

AMY GOODMAN: Zaid, you wrote a piece, "Chamber of Commerce May Prefer Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump," suggesting that Clinton would implement TPP.

ZAID JILANI: Yeah. So, Tom Donohue is the head of the US Chamber of Commerce, probably the most powerful corporate lobbying group and the longest-running one. And basically what he said quite recently was that he believes that Clinton would implement the TPP, despite what she's saying now. He made a point to say that he doesn't necessarily buy the election rhetoric coming from the political parties, and that, you know, he may very well have a preference for Clinton. I believe it was last week he was interviewed -- or, earlier this month, he was interviewed, and he was asked, you know, "Does business prefer Clinton or Trump?" And he said, "Well, we don't know yet. We'd love to see the debates. We'd love to see, you know, so on and so forth." It's a very unusual question -- or, answer from Tom Donohue, given the fact that the Chamber of Commerce has traditionally been allied with the Republicans. They spent tens of millions of dollars wiping out House Democrats in 2010. And yet, when it comes to this race, Tom Donohue is saying favorable things about Hillary Clinton, not quite as favorable about Trump, but it seems to be undecided. It's just -- it's a bizarre realignment of the business community.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Zaid, we want to thank you for being with us. We'll continue to follow your work, and we'll link to your piece at The Intercept at Zaid Jilani is a staff reporter at The Intercept. We're all here in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention with expanded two-hour daily coverage of Democracy Now! Stay with us.

News Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
WikiLeaks' Julian Assange on Releasing DNC Emails That Ousted Debbie Wasserman Schultz

In March, WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for over 30,000 emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton's private email server while she was secretary of state. The 50,000 pages of documents span from June 2010 to August 2014; 7,500 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The State Department released the emails as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Democratic National Convention is opening today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, amid massive party turmoil. Democratic National Committee chairwoman and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has resigned following the release of nearly 20,000 emails revealing how the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders. The emails were released Friday by WikiLeaks.

In one email, DNC Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall suggested someone ask Sanders about his religion ahead of the Kentucky and West Virginia contests. Brad Marshall wrote, quote, "It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist," unquote. In another email, Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver a, quote, "Damn liar."

AMY GOODMAN: A third email shows National Press Secretary Mark Paustenbach writing, quote, "Wondering if there's a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess," unquote. Multiple emails show the DNC complaining about MSNBC coverage of the party and of Communications Director Luis Miranda once writing, quote, "F***ing Joe claiming the system is rigged, party against him, we need to complain to their producer," unquote, referring to Joe Scarborough. Other emails suggest the DNC was gathering information on Sanders' events and that a super PAC was paying people to counter Sanders supporters online.

On Sunday, Bernie Sanders reacted to the emails during an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I told you a long time ago that the -- that the DNC was not running a fair operation, that they were supporting Secretary Clinton. So what I suggested to be true six months ago turns out, in fact, to be true. I'm not shocked, but I am disappointed. ... What I also said many months ago is that, for a variety of reasons, Debbie Wasserman Schultz should not be chair of the DNC. And I think these emails reiterate that reason why she should not be chair. I think she should resign, period. And I think we need a new chair who is going to lead us in a very different direction.

AMY GOODMAN: WikiLeaks has not revealed the source of the leaked emails, although in June a hacker using the name Guccifer 2.0 claimed responsibility for the hacking into the DNC's computer network. On Sunday, however, Clinton's campaign manager claimed the emails were leaked, quote, "by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump," unquote.

We go now to London for an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy for more than four years. He was granted political asylum by Ecuador, but he fears if he attempts to go to Ecuador, if he attempts to step foot outside the Ecuadorean Embassy, that he will be arrested by British police and ultimately extradited to the United States to face, well, it's believed, possibly treason charges for the documents WikiLeaks has released.

Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this email -- these emails, these 20,000 emails you have released?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah, it's quite remarkable what has happened the last few days. I think this is a quite a classical release, showing the benefit of producing pristine data sets, presenting them before the public, where there's equal access to all journalists and to interested members of the public to mine through them and have them in a citable form where they can then be used to prop up certain criticisms or political arguments. Often it's the case that we have to do a lot of exploration and marketing of the material we publish ourselves to get a big political impact for it. But in this case, we knew, because of the pending DNC, because of the degree of interest in the US election, we didn't need to establish partnerships with The New York Times or The Washington Post. In fact, that might be counterproductive, because they are partisans of one group or another. Rather, we took the data set, analyzed it, verified it, made it in a presentable, searchable form, presented it for all journalists and the public to mine. And that's exactly what has happened.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Julian, your reaction to the announced resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz shortly after the release of these emails?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, I mean, that's interesting. We have seen that with a lot of other publications. I guess there's a question: What does that mean for the US Democratic Party? It is important for there to be examples of accountability. The resignation was an example of that. Now, of course, Hillary Clinton has tried to immediately produce a counter-example by putting out a statement, within hours, saying that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a great friend, and she's incorporating her into her campaign, she's going to be pushing for her re-election to the Congress.

So that's a very interesting signaling by Hillary Clinton that if you act in a corrupt way that benefits Hillary Clinton, you will be taken care of. Why does she need to put that out? Certainly, it's not a signal that helps with the public at all. It's not a signal that helps with unity at the DNC, at the convention. It's a signal to Hillary Clinton partisans to keep on going on, you'll be taken care of. But it's a very destructive signal for a future presidency, because it's -- effectively, it's expanding the Overton window of corruption. It doesn't really matter what you do, how you behave; as long as that is going to benefit Hillary Clinton, you'll be protected.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it's very interesting, because Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine appeared together, as Mike Pence and Donald Trump did the week before, on "60 Minutes." And Hillary Clinton distanced herself from all these emails and the DNC, saying, "These people didn't work for me." And yet immediately upon the forced resignation of Deborah Wasserman Schultz, she said she's a good friend, and immediately hired her. But, Julian, I was wondering if you can say, from your point of view, what do you think are the most significant emails that have been released, that you have released?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, actually, I think the most significant ones haven't been reported on, although The Washington Post late last night and McClatchy did a first initial stab at it. And this is the spreadsheets that we released covering the financial affairs of the DNC. Those are very rich documents. There's one spreadsheet called "Spreadsheet of All Things," and it includes all the major US -- all the major DNC donors, where the donations were brought in, who they are, identifiers, the total amounts they've donated, how much at a noted or particular event, whether that event was being pushed by the president or by someone else. That effectively maps out the influence structure in the United States for the Democratic Party, but more broadly, because the -- with few exceptions, billionaires in the United States make sure they donate to both parties. That's going to provide a scaffold for future investigative journalism about influence within the United States, in general.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Julian, on that issue, clearly, a lot of the emails talk about the actual amounts of money that were being offered to donors for the opportunity to -- I mean, asked of donors for the opportunity to sit at different events next to President Obama, especially, the use of President Obama as a fundraiser. Now, most people in the political world will consider this business as usual, but the actual mechanics of how this operates and the degree to which the DNC coordinates with the president, his marketability, is -- I don't think has ever been revealed in this detail. Would you agree?

JULIAN ASSANGE: That's right. And it's not just that the president holds fundraisers. That's nothing new. But rather, what you get for each donation of a particular sort. There's even a phrase used in one of the emails of, quote, "pay to play." So, yeah, I think it's extremely interesting. There's emails back and forth also between the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC. So, you see quite elaborate structures of money being funneled to state Democratic Party officers and then teleported back, seemingly to get up certain stats, maybe to evade certain campaign funding restrictions.

In relation to what has become the most significant political discussion as a result of the publication, which is that the DNC higher-ups, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were clearly against Bernie Sanders and trying to subvert his campaign in a whole raft of ways, that's true. That's the -- the atmosphere that is revealed by hundreds of emails is that it's perfectly acceptable to produce trenchant internal criticisms of Bernie Sanders and discuss ways to undermine his campaign. So, whether that's calling up the president of MSNBC -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the president of MSNBC to haul "Morning Joe" into line, which it subsequently has done. I noticed this morning, "Morning Joe" actually discussed it themselves, trying to shore up their own presentation of, you know, a TV program that can't be pushed around. But, in fact, they did not mention the call to the president. That was something that is still unspeakable. And it was a 180-degree flip in that coverage.

And you see other, you know, quite naked conspiracies against Bernie Sanders. While there's been some discussion, for example, about -- that there was a plan to use -- to expose Bernie Sanders as an atheist, as opposed to being a religious Jew, and to use that against him in the South to undermine his support there. There was an instruction by the head of communications, Luis Miranda, to take an anti-Bernie Sanders story, that had appeared in the press, and spread that around without attribution, not leaving their fingerprints on it. And that was an instruction made to staff. So, it wasn't just, you know, a plan that may or may not have been carried out. This was an instruction that was pushed to DNC staff to covertly get out into the media anti-Bernie Sanders stories. Another thing that --

AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, Hillary --

JULIAN ASSANGE: Another aspect that is --

AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook, cited experts saying that the DNC emails were leaked by the Russians in an attempt to help Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Mook was speaking to CNN. This is what he said.

ROBBY MOOK: What's disturbing to us is that we -- experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying that they are -- the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump. I don't think it's coincidental that these emails were released on the eve our convention here. We also saw last week at the Republican convention that Trump and his allies made changes to the Republican platform to make it more pro-Russian. And we saw him talking about how NATO shouldn't intervene to defend -- necessarily should intervene to defend our Eastern European allies if they're attacked by Russia. So, I think when you put all this together, it's a disturbing picture.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Robby Mook citing experts saying the DNC emails were leaked by the Russians. You were the one who released these 20,000 emails, Julian Assange. Where did you get them?

JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, what's not in that clip there by Robby is that, just afterwards, he was asked by Jake Tapper, "Who are these experts? Can you name them?" The answer was no, a refusal to name the experts. But we have seen one of the experts, so-called experts, that the Democratic Party is trying to base its incredible conspiracy theory on about WikiLeaks. And that is this -- what we jokingly refer to as the NSA dick pic guy. He's a former National Security Agency agent who started to produce conspiracy theories about us in 2013, when we were involved in the Edward Snowden rescue, as a means to try and undermine the Snowden publications, subsequently embroiled in some amateur pornography scandal. That's why they don't want to name their experts, because they are people like this.

In relation to sourcing, I can say some things. A, we never reveal our sources, obviously. That's what we pride ourselves on. And we won't in this case, either. But no one knows who our source is. It's simply speculation. It's, I think, interesting and acceptable to speculate who our sources are. But if we're talking about the DNC, there's lots of consultants that have access, lots of programmers. And the DNC has been hacked dozens and dozens of times. Even according to its own reports, it had been hacked extensively over the last few years. And the dates of the emails that we published are significantly after all, or all but one -- it's not clear -- of the hacking allegations that the DNC says have occurred.

News Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Four Trump Campaign Finance Violations

The story of Melania Trump and her speechwriter -- who "accidentally" plagiarized Michelle Obama, submitted an apologetic statement, and was then accused of being fake -- has gone viral. But there's another part of the story: Her role in the structure of the Trump campaign may be illegal.

If it is, it wouldn't be the first time Donald Trump has played fast and loose with the complicated laws surrounding campaign finance and staffing practices. Perhaps the "art of the deal" includes some creative accounting.

We took a look at some of Trump's most egregious campaign finance violations in honor of Meredith McIver, America's new favorite speechwriter (who is in fact real).

1.) Crossing the Streams

Meredith McIver got thrust into the limelight for a reason beyond plagiarising: It's possible that the Trump campaign is breaking the law by using her as a speechwriter. McIver's "oops" statement was issued on Trump Organization letterhead and she identified herself as an employee of the Trump Organization, which is important, because Trump's company should be ostensibly separate from the Trump campaign. Mr. Trump is not legally allowed to use his corporate resources, right down to the letterhead her apology was printed on, to fund campaign activities. Doing so can carry potential civil and criminal penalties.

If Mr. Trump used campaign funds to compensate McIver for her resources and time -- that means paying for any devices she used while working on the speech, covering the cost of phone calls, and so forth in addition to paying her for her work -- he'd avoid legal penalties. However, McIver doesn't show up in his financial disclosures. If she worked on the speech prior to July, she and the campaign broke the law. If she didn't start work until this month, that might explain why she decided to dip into other people's work to pad out Melania's speech.

The Keep America Great PAC feels so strongly on the subject that it just filed an FEC complaint: "The complaint alleges five violations including illegally accepting direct corporate contributions, accepting services from a volunteer that were actually compensated, use of the Trump corporate name or trademark to facilitate campaign contributions, illegal use of corporate facilities by a campaign volunteer, and knowingly allowing volunteers to exceed the transportation expense limit."

2.) Brother, Can You Spare a Euro?

One thing is a big no-no when it comes to campaign finance and accepting donations: You can't take money from foreign sources, not even your aunt Gladys in Glasgow, unless she's a US national living abroad. That doesn't seem to phase the Trump campaign, which has been brazenly sending out personal appeals for funds to elected officials all over the world, despite being repeatedly called up on the carpet for it, including by members of parliament openly mocking him on Twitter.

The solicitations cast a wide net: Some of Trump's targets included progressive MPs in places like Australia, who wouldn't donate to Trump even if they did feel like making illegal campaign contributions. Campaign law is quite strict: It's not just illegal to accept foreign donations, but also to solicit them, so the Trump campaign is breaking the law even if it never collects a dime of support.

3.) Keeping Your Money Close

It's not technically illegal, but it is a little shady: Have you ever wondered why The Donald is always holding events at Trump Corporation properties? It's not just because he loves his business empire so much, nor is it because they're hosting him for free (which would be, as discussed above, illegal). It's because he clearly likes to keep his money in the family, so he's using his campaign funds to pay for the products and services of his corporation, to the tune of some six million dollars. While it's not illegal for candidates to use the services of the companies they own, Trump is doing so at a really unprecedented level, and there's something a little slimy about this "out of one pocket, into the other" approach.

It also raises the possibility of campaign finance violations that may slip through the cracks. If the campaign isn't very closely auditing every single dollar spent and resource used, it could be violating the law -- because yes, a single pen casually picked up from the concierge desk at Trump Tower is an illegal campaign contribution. An innocent mistake gets you civil charges, but if the Trump campaign is knowingly utilizing Trump Organization resources, it could get into criminal trouble.

4.) Go Back to Law School

In a scorchingly withering response to a cease and desist order originating from Trump HQ, counsel for Right to Rise, a conservative PAC, managed to simultaneously express their deep disdain for Trump while also calling the campaign out for potential legal violations. The PAC noticed that the counsel sending out cease and desist orders were actually employed by the Trump Organization -- not the campaign -- which would be yet another example of an illegal corporate donation. This issue has been systemic, with numerous targets of similar orders demonstrating that they also received communications on Trump Organization letterhead, from attorneys retained by Trump's company.

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Can Industrial Hemp Save Kentucky's Small Farms?

At the birth of any industry, uncertainty abounds. So does opportunity, say Kentuckians like Joe Schroeder of Freedom Seed and Feed, who is among those growing industrial hemp and advocating for others in Appalachia to do the same.

"It's really speculative," says Schroeder. "But people are making a lot of money, and that money is real."

But don't take that talk of money to mean Schroeder is greedy. At a time when the region's collapsing coal and tobacco industries have left gaping holes in central Appalachia's economy, at least some of Kentucky's hemp experimenters want to maximize the benefit to as many local people as possible.

Hemp was so important to early America that colonists in Virginia were required to grow it. A short boom during World War II notwithstanding, the shift to cotton and the anti-marijuana movement put an end to the industry by the mid-20th century. But in 2014, a new farm bill cleared the way for states to begin research-driven pilot programs to test the crop's viability in producing fiber, medication, and food. Twenty-seven states, including Kentucky, have passed their own pro-hemp legislation so far. And yet the plant remains a Schedule I controlled substance, in the same category as heroin, LSD, and bath salts.

That's why Jane Herrod feels like she's starting from scratch, even though hemp was grown on her family farm near Lexington, Kentucky, as far back as the early 1800s. Hemp may be rife with legal contradiction, but things don't appear so complicated this afternoon at her farm. The cows graze. The Kentucky River flows. And Herrod, a middle-aged woman with close-cropped grey hair and a deep tan, looks out across her pastureland with obvious joy. She loves this land, and she's not giving up on it.

Kentucky is home to a vast patchwork of small former tobacco farms like Herrod's. Beginning in the 1930s, a system of quotas and other price supports from the federal government made tobacco a pretty secure crop to grow, even on a small number of acres. But all that came to a halt in 2004, when these tobacco-friendly policies were discontinued. A payment system was set up to assist tobacco farmers until they could figure out a replacement crop, but that ended in 2014. Now, with smoking in decline and imported tobacco on the rise, the industry is down to less than a quarter of its size a few decades ago. But the land, much of the infrastructure, and at least some of the farmers are still there.

Hemp advocates hope that reintroducing the crop will help farmers like Herrod keep her 10 tillable acres in production and make money too. But whether and how hemp can justify itself financially on a small farm are open questions and critical ones for Kentuckians to answer if they are to significantly benefit from the potential new industry.


Last year, Herrod hosted a small test plot of hemp on her land, and now she's applying to grow two acres of the plant for cannabidiol (CBD) oil, one of the highest-value hemp products being tested. The oil is used to treat epilepsy and has shown potential for Crohn's disease, cancer, and autism. She and other growers and processors must go through a lengthy permitting process run by Kentucky's agriculture department and the Drug Enforcement Agency. This year, 166 applications were approved in the state.

Though she doesn't expect to get rich, Herrod believes the high-value CBD oil could bring in enough income for her to start building other enterprises and investing in infrastructure on her farm so that she can pass it on to her kids as the income-generating business it used to be. For this reason, some are describing hemp as a "gateway crop" that could help keep family farms viable.

Another strong motivator for Herrod is the opportunity to grow something that heals and feeds people instead of poisoning them. Herrod's mother, who passed the tobacco farm down to her daughter, died of lung cancer caused by the very crop she raised. Edible hemp seed, on the other hand, packs in omega-3s and -6s, nutritious oils that facilitate healthy nerves. And its flowers contain a host of biochemicals that are being tested for medicinal uses. For all these reasons, Herrod says she's ready to turn over a new leaf.

"There's not a negative thing about the plant that I can see, other than you might not be able to make money with it," Herrod says, laughing. "But I'm going to find out."

Hemp is defined in the farm bill as cannabis that's less than 0.3 percent THC content by weight. THC, of course, is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, which contains 10 percent THC on average.

It's easy to see why boosters describe hemp as a kind of miracle plant. It's a sector filled with a certain amount of utopian thinking, especially from marijuana legalization advocates. But not all of the boosters are partaking. A 1998 study by North Dakota State University estimates that hemp has 25,000 uses, which include food, green building materials, textiles, paper, fuel, body care products, and as a replacement for plastic and fiberglass. BMW even used it in the door panels of its new electric car.

That's why farmers in China and Europe have been growing hemp for decades. But in the United States, the federal government still considers it a narcotic. And that makes it harder to find buyers, get insurance, and obtain seed.

A flier for prospective hemp growers put out by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture warns that "markets are limited; revenues should not be counted on." Likewise, a report by the Congressional Research Service last year said it's impossible to make predictions about sales and employment. Still, the same report describes a "mostly positive market outlook" for hemp, citing "rising consumer demand and the potential range of product uses." 

Right now, how much a farmer can make on hemp depends on what they're growing it for, and whom you're asking. Hemp is grown mainly for its fiber, seed, or flowers. The fiber is most often used in textiles or building materials, while seeds are made into nutritious oil, snacks, or livestock feed. Flowers are harvested for pharmaceutical products, including CBD oil.

A 2013 economic study on hemp by the University of Kentucky assumes that farmers can get between 50 and 80 cents per pound for seed. Freedom Seed and Feed, on the other hand, reports getting $12 per pound for the protein-rich, organic hemp seed they sell to a local granola maker.

Meanwhile, the Hemp Industries Association estimates that Americans purchased $620 million in hemp products in 2014. China is America's biggest supplier of fiber, while Canada provides most of the seed and oilcake (a byproduct of pressing hemp seeds for oil).

Since there's more money in seed and oil than in fiber, Canada will likely be the major competitor for US hemp farmers. Canada legalized hemp in 1998, so farmers there are now 17 years ahead of American ones.

What kind of money are those Canadian farmers making? According to the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, the average hemp grower earned about $550 per acre, annually, for seed. That's about half of what Kentucky farmers are expecting to earn.

But a huge industrial farm growing oilseed in Canada for a commodity market looks a lot different than Big Switch Farm, nestled in a sloping valley in Jackson County, Kentucky, where Joe Schroeder is harvesting his last sliver of a hemp test plot on a shimmering October morning. His Ray-Bans and blue flannel shirt conceal a farmer's tan as deep as Jane Herrod's. The crucial question for both hemp-curious farmers: How small is too small?


 Running a chainsaw across a swath of rangy hemp plants, Schroeder is right in the middle of trying to figure out just that. He seeded his test plots at different rates of density to study which ones maximized yield and, more broadly, the economics of growing hemp seed for food and fiber on a small scale. His permit is for five acres, which 18 straight days of rain and one pesky groundhog have not helped.

Schroeder is chief operating officer of Freedom Seed and Feed, one of a handful of private, "values-driven" companies to crop up in the Kentucky hemp play. The company works with nontraditional farmers in the Amish community, who grew 60 acres last year, some in high-CBD varieties. Meanwhile, Schroeder's business partner, Mike Lewis, is working to turn Kentucky's war veterans into hemp farmers.

"I have an aspirational approach to the market," says Schroeder. "A lot of this is about the market you make."

Freedom Feed and Seed's business model is based on differentiating itself from commodity-based agriculture, which produces high volumes of raw product. Instead, Schroeder's company is catering to specialized buyers and developing products that fetch higher prices. It simply doesn't make sense, Schroeder's logic goes, for a former tobacco farmer on five acres in Kentucky to compete with a grower on a thousand acres in Canada.

The fact that the industry's in its infancy creates additional opportunities. "We're going to be able to push for a standard that farmers can survive at," says Schroeder. "If they get rich too, then that's a consequence we could deal with."

One way to ensure farmers get their fair share, Schroeder believes, is to organize cooperatives modeled on those that existed in the tobacco era. These structures offered farmers collective control over who to sell to and at what price, in addition to lowering the cost of production through shared infrastructure and group purchasing. That kind of advocacy is exactly what hemp farmers need to navigate an emerging market, says Schroeder.

The industry may also be able to get help from Washington, D.C. Federal funding is now available to support struggling, coal-reliant communities in Appalachia. Why not use some of this money to, for example, build a hemp processing plant in the layoff-riddled coal country of eastern Kentucky, putting people to work and capturing more of the plant's value within the region?

Some relatively established companies, like GenCanna Global, are already investing in Kentucky's fledgling industry.

"What we've decided to do at GenCanna with our farmers is make them partners," says Chris Stubbs, GenCanna's chief science officer. "They are going to participate in the value chain all the way through." 

In that profit-sharing partnership, GenCanna brings its technical knowledge, materials, and investment. The company has in some cases paid farmers' rent, covered the expense of retrofitting their operation to grow hemp, and even cut their payroll checks. The growers bring their local knowledge, land, and existing infrastructure. Both parties learn from each other and share in the profits. The net result, says founder and CEO Matty Mangone-Miranda, is an acceleration of the industry and a move away from existing agriculture models in which the farmer is used and underappreciated. GenCanna estimates that the company touches a couple hundred people at all levels, including everyone from production managers and seasonal workers to research scientists. Mangone-Miranda expects to work with more than 30 farms this season, ranging in size from three to 130 acres. The small scale of the farms in Kentucky, compared to the average commodity-growing farm, means the company will be able to pay more attention to detail, which in the long term will translate into higher quality -- like a microbrew, says Mangone-Miranda.

But that would be a microbrew that's classified as a Schedule I narcotic. When you ask Kentuckians what they need to make hemp a success, their first answer is always to take the plant off the federal list of controlled substances. That's exactly what the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 would do. Its supporters include both Bernie Sanders and Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, as co-sponsors.

The bill was introduced in the Senate last year and now sits in the judiciary committee, awaiting further action. The five-year window opened by the 2014 farm bill for hemp experimentation will expire in two years. At that point, congress will renegotiate a new farm bill, and anything could happen.

Last year, Freedom Feed and Seed helped produce an American flag made out of American hemp by American hands, a project they say is a metaphor for what they're trying to do: extend the American dream of honest pay for honest work to people who have long been left out. The collaboration called on artisans, textile producers, veterans-turned-farmers, and private and nonprofit partners throughout the tobacco belt and beyond. The flag flew over the stage at the 2015 Farm Aid concert as a reminder of America's grassroots production power. As a prototype, it was one of a kind and absurdly expensive to make. But as a talking point for the potential rebirth of an industry, it served its purpose.

News Tue, 26 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The World After Me: Eternal "Wartime" in the US

2016.7.25.TD.mainWe are beginning to see the "strains of the global destabilization now evidently underway and, unnerved, we are undoubtedly continuing to damage the future in ways still hard to assess," writes Tom Engelhardt. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: orangeacid, Reto Stöckli / NASA)I recently dug my mother's childhood photo album out of the depths of my bedroom closet. When I opened it, I found that the glue she had used as a girl to paste her life in place had given way, and on many pages the photos were now in a jumble.

My mother was born early in the last century. Today, for most of that ancient collection of photos and memorabilia -- drawings (undoubtedly hers), a Caruthers School of Piano program, a Camp Weewan-Eeta brochure, a Hyde Park High School junior prom "senior ticket," and photos of unknown boys, girls, and adults -- there's no one left to tell me who was who or what was what.

In some of them, I can still recognize my mother's youthful face, and that of her brother who died so long ago but remains quite recognizable (even so many decades before I knew him). As for the rest -- the girl in what looks like a gym outfit doing a headstand, all those young women lined up on a beach in what must then have been risqué bathing suits, the boy kneeling with his arms outstretched toward my perhaps nine-year-old mother -- they've all been swept away by the tides of time.

And so it goes, of course. For all of us, sooner or later.

My mother was never much for talking about the past. Intent on becoming a professional caricaturist, she lit out from her hometown, Chicago, for the city of her dreams, New York, and essentially never looked back. For whatever reason, looking back frightened her.

And in all those years when I might have pressed her for so much more about herself, her family, her youthful years, I was too young to give a damn. Now, I can't tell you what I'd give to ask those questions and find out what I can never know. Her mother and father, my grandparents who died before I was born, her sister whom I met once at perhaps age six, her friends and neighbors, swains and sidekicks, they're all now the dust of history in an album that is disintegrating into a pile of black flakes at the slightest touch. Even for me, most of the photos in it are as meaningless (if strangely moving) as ones you'd pick up in an antique store or at a garage sale.

Lost Children on a Destabilizing Planet

I just had -- I won't say celebrated -- my 72nd birthday. It was a natural moment to think about both the past that stretches behind me and the truncated future ahead. Recently, in fact, I've had the dead on my mind. I'm about to recopy my ancient address book for what undoubtedly will be the last time. (Yes, I'm old enough to prefer all that information on paper, not in the ether.) And of course when I flip through those fading pages, I see, as befits my age, something like a book of the dead and realize that the next iteration will be so much shorter.

It's sometimes said of the dead that they've "crossed over." In the context of our present world, I've started thinking of them as refugees of a sort -- every one of them uprooted from their lives (as we all will be one day) and sent across some unknown frontier into a truly foreign land. But if our fate is, in the end, to be the ultimate refugees, heading into a place where there will be no resettlement camps, assumedly nothing at all, I wonder, too, about the world after me, the one I'll leave behind when I finally cross that border.

I wonder, too -- how could I not with my future life as a "refugee" in mind? -- about the 65 million human beings uprooted from their homes in 2015 alone, largely in places where we Americans have been fighting our wars for this last decade and a half. And it's hard not to notice how many more have followed in their path this year, including at least 80,000 of the Sunni inhabitants of Iraq's recently "liberated" and partially destroyed city of Fallujah. In the process, tens of millions of them have remained internal exiles in their own country (or what is left of it), while tens of millions have officially become refugees by crossing borders into Turkey, Lebanon, or Jordan, by taking to the seas in flimsy, overcrowded craft heading for Greece (from Turkey) or Italy (from Libya) moving onward in waves of desperation, hope, and despair, and drowning in alarming numbers. At the end of their journeys, they have sometimes found help and succor, but often enough only hostility and loathing, as if they were the ones who had committed a crime, done something wrong.

I think as well about the nearly 10% of Iraqi children, 1.5 million of them in a country gripped by chaos, war, ethnic conflict, insurgency, and terror who, according to a recent UNICEF report, have had to flee their homes since 2014, or the 20% of Iraqi kids (kids!) who are "at serious risk of death, injury, sexual violence, and recruitment into armed groups." I think about the 51% of all those refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere who were children, many separated from their parents and alone on Planet Earth.

No child deserves such a fate. Ever. Each uprooted child who has lost his or her parents, and perhaps access to education or any childhood at all, represents a crime against the future.

And I think often enough about our response to all this, the one we've practiced for the last 15 years: more bombs, more missiles, more drone strikes, more advisers, more special ops raids, more weapons deals, and with it all not success or victory by any imaginable standard, but only the further destabilization of increasing regions of the planet, the further spread of terror movements, and the generation of yet more uprooted human beings, lost children, refugees -- ever more, that is, of the terrorized and the terrorists. If this represents the formula from hell, it's also been a proven one over this last decade and a half. It works, as long as what you mean to do is bring chaos to significant swathes of the planet and force yet more children in ever more unimaginable situations.

If you live in the United States, it's easy enough to be shocked (unless, of course, you're a supporter) when Donald Trump calls for the banning of Muslims from this country, or Newt Gingrich advocates the testing of "every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in sharia they should be deported," or various Republican governors fight to keep a pitiful few Syrian refugees out of their states. It's easy enough to cite a long tradition of American xenophobia and racism without acknowledging the acute "xenophobic" action that has taken place in distant lands.

The Muslims that Donald Trump wants to ban are, after all, the very ones his country has played such a part in uprooting and setting in motion. And how can the few who might ever make it to this country compare to the millions who have flooded Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, among other places, further destabilizing the Middle East (which, in case you forgot, remains the oil heartland of the planet)? Where is the Marshall Plan for them or for the rest of a region that the US and its allies are now in the process of dismantling (with the eager assistance of the Islamic State, various extremist outfits, Bashar al-Assad, and quite a crew of others)?

What Bombs Can't Build

We Americans think well of ourselves. From our presidents on down, we seldom hesitate to imagine our country as a singularly "exceptional" nation -- and also as an exceptionally generous one. In recent years, however, that generosity has been little in evidence at home or abroad (except where the US military is concerned). Domestically, the country has split between a rising 1% (and their handlers and enablers) and parts of the other 99% who feel themselves on the path to hell. Helped along by Donald Trump's political circus, this has given the US the look of a land spinning into something like Third World-ism, even though it remains the globe's "sole superpower" and wealthiest country.

Meanwhile, our professed streak of generosity hasn't extended to our own infrastructure, which -- speaking of worlds swept away by the tides of time -- would have boggled the minds of my parents and other Americans of their era. The idea that the country's highways, byways, bridges, levees, pipelines, and so on could be decaying in significant ways and starved for dollars without a response from the political class would have been inconceivable to them. And it does represent a strikingly ungenerous message sent from that class to the children of some future America: you and the world you'll inhabit aren't worth our investment.

In these years -- thank you, Osama bin Laden, ISIS, and endless American politicians, officials, military figures, and terror "experts" -- fear has gripped the body politic over a phenomenon, terrorism, that, while dangerous, represents one of the lesser perils of American life. No matter. There's a constant drumbeat of discussion about how to keep ourselves "safe" from terrorism in a world in which freelance attackers with an assault rifle or a truck can indeed kill startling numbers of people in suicidal acts. The problem is that, in this era, preserving our "safety" always turns out to involve yet more bombs and missiles dropped in distant lands, more troops and special operators sent into action, greater surveillance of ourselves and everyone else. In other words, we're talking about everything that further militarizes American foreign policy, puts the national security state in command, and assures the continued demobilization of a scared and rattled citizenry, even as, elsewhere, it creates yet more uprooted souls, more children without childhoods, more refugees.

Our leaders -- and we, too -- have grown accustomed to our particular version of eternal "wartime," and to wars without end, wars guaranteed to go on and on as more parts of the planet plunge into hell. In all of this, any sense of American generosity, either of the spirit or of funds, seems to be missing in action. There isn't the faintest understanding here that if you really don't want to create generations of terrorists amid a growing population loosed from all the boundaries of normal life, you'd better have a Marshall Plan for the Greater Middle East.

It should be obvious (but isn't in our American world) that bombs, whatever they may do, can never build anything. You'd better be ready instead to lend a genuine hand, a major one, in making half-decent lives possible for millions and millions of people now in turmoil. You'd better know that war isn't actually the answer to any of this, that if ISIS is destroyed in a region reduced to rubble and without hope of better, a few years from now that brutal organization could look good in comparison to whatever comes down the pike. You'd better know that peaceful acts -- peace being a word that, even rhetorically, has gone out of style in "wartime" Washington -- are still possible in this world.

Lost to the Future

Before those tides wash us away, there's always the urge to ensure that you'll leave something behind. I fear that I'm already catching glimpses of what that might be, of the world after me, an American world that I would never have wanted to turn over to my own children or grandchildren, or anyone else's. My country, the United States, is hardly the only one involved in what looks like a growing global debacle of destabilization: a tip of the hat is necessary to the Pakistanis, the Saudis, our European allies, the Brexit British, the Russians, and so many others.

I have to admit, however, that my own focus -- my sense of duty, you might say -- is to this country. I've never liked the all-American words "patriot" and "super-patriot," which we only apply to ourselves -- or those alternatives, "nationalist" and "ultranationalist," which we reserve pejoratively for gung-ho foreigners. But if I can't quite call myself either an American patriot or an American nationalist, I do care, above all, about what this country chooses to be, what it wants to become. I feel some responsibility for that and it pains me to see what's happening to us, to the country and the people we seem to be preparing to be. We, too, are perhaps beginning to show the strains of the global destabilization now evidently underway and, unnerved, we are undoubtedly continuing to damage the future in ways still hard to assess.

Perhaps someday, someone will have one of my own childhood photo albums in their hands. The glue will have worn off, the photos will be heading toward the central crease, the pages will be flaking away, and the cast of characters, myself included, will be lost to the past, as so many of those children we had such a hand in uprooting and making into refugees will be lost to the future. At that moment, my fate will be the norm and there will be nothing to mourn about it. The fate of those lost children, if they become the norm, will however be the scandal of the century, and will represent genuine crimes against the future.

Opinion Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Hillary-Kaine: Back to the Center

By picking Sen. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton has revealed her true preferences and shown that her move to the left on policy issues during the primaries was simply a tactical move to defeat Bernie Sanders. It's not what you say, it's what you do. Clinton can talk about caring about the US public, but this choice cuts through the rhetoric.

The two politicians to whom she gave serious consideration to choosing as her running mates were Kaine and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. What both men share in common is, like the Clintons, being leaders of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC was, on economic and foreign policy issues, a servile creature of Wall Street -- funded by Wall Street.

As Tom Frank's new book Listen, Liberal documents, the DLC vilified the New Deal, financial and safety regulation, organized labor, the working class, opponents of militarism, opponents of the disastrous trade deals that were actually backdoor assaults on effective health, safety and financial regulation, and the progressive base of the Democratic Party.

The DLC leadership, which included President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, entered into a series of cynical bipartisan deals with the worst elements of the Republican Party, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Wall Street elites that:

  • Created a massive regulatory "black hole" in financial derivatives that Enron and later the world's largest banks exploited to run their fraud schemes that led to the Enron-era scandals and the Great Recession

  • Destroyed Glass-Steagall (the New Deal reform that separated commercial and investment banks)

  • Drove Brooksley Born from government because she warned about these derivatives and sought to protect us from the coming disaster

  • Cut the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's (FDIC) staff by over three-quarters, destroying effective supervision of banks

  • Cut the Office of Thrift Supervision's (OTS) staff by over half, destroying effective supervision of savings and loans such as Countrywide, Washington Mutual (known as WaMu, the largest "bank" failure in US history), and IndyMac. OTS was also supposed to regulate aspects of AIG and Lehman, but had no capacity to do so given the massive staff cuts and its deliberately useless regulatory leaders chosen by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush

Where Was Kaine?

Kaine, like Hillary Clinton, has embraced for decades the DLC/'New Democrats' agenda -- meaning they are allies of Wall Street. They embrace a neo-liberal, pro-corporate outlook that has done incredible damage to the vast majority of Americans.

Kaine is actively pushing to weaken already grossly inadequate financial regulation and pushing to adopt the indefensible "Trans-Pacific Partnership" (TPP).

By choosing Kaine, Hillary Clinton is signaling that her new-found support for financial regulation and opposition to TPP is a tactical ploy to win the nomination before she "pivots" back to the disastrous policies that she, Kaine and Vilsack have helped inflict on the world for decades. She is playing into Trump's claims that she is not honest.

What's especially noteworthy is that Hillary Clinton and Kaine are carrying Wall Street's water while the Republican Party is repudiating some of these policies. The Republican Party platform (cynically) calls for reinstating Glass-Steagall, and Donald Trump has called for the defeat of TPP in an equally cynical fashion.

The self-described liberals -- the Clintons, Kaine and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman -- are against reinstating Glass-Steagall.  This shows Hillary Clinton hasn't learned a thing from the failed pro-Wall Street policies that have wrecked the economy. It's bad politics and it's bad policy.

Actually, that's not quite right. These policies have worked brilliantly for the top 1/1000th of one percent. The policies have been disastrous for nearly everyone else in the US -- and around the world. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren says, "the financial system is rigged."

As an attorney, professor of economics, serial whistleblower, former financial regulator and white-collar criminologist, I can explain exactly how the DLC and their Republican allies, both of which were traditionally funded by and servants of Wall Street, rigged the system.

You can be sure that people like me who have demonstrated their ability and willingness to destroy the rigged system in order to regulate and prosecute financial elites and their political cronies will never be appointed by a Clinton/Kaine administration.

The Love of Austerity   

And that's just on the finance. On the economics, the choice of Kaine signals that Hillary Clinton is openly returning to her life-long embrace of the economic malpractice of austerity. Recall that Bill Clinton tried, in league with Newt Gingrich, to largely privatize Social Security. That is Wall Street's greatest dream.

The only reason it didn't happen is that the Republican rebels asked for too much and that scuttled the deal that Bill Clinton was making with the Republican-controlled Congress. The same thing happened when the Tea Party sank President Barack Obama's efforts to reach a "Grand Bargain" with the Republicans to adopt austerity and make cuts to the safety net.

The leadership of the now defunct DLC continues to applaud the cuts they made to Social Security and the oxymoron they called "welfare reform" that has brought so much misery to poor mothers. The preposterous lie that, working with President Ronald Reagan, they "saved Social Security" is repeated daily on the intro to an MSNBC program.

Even though it would be good politics as well as policy for Hillary Clinton to break with the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party and choose a VP from the Democratic-wing of the Party, she refuses to even pretend that she gave serious consideration to choosing a progressive as her running point.

Democrats should take a lesson from economics and focus on this clear case of "revealed preferences." She is telling us that she intends to ensure that should she be elected and unable to complete her term of office she can be confident that her successor will continue the DLC's disastrous agenda.

Opinion Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Sanders Delegates Push DNC to Reform Anti-Democratic Superdelegates

2016.7.25.Sanders.mainOn Saturday, July 23, the Democratic National Convention's Rules Committee repeatedly rejected a series of reforms to its "superdelegate" system, despite the pleas of Sanders delegates who urged the 165-member body to accommodate millions of voters who want a more open and less rigged presidential nominating process. (Photo: Randy Bayne / Flickr)

After a contentious afternoon in which the Democratic National Convention's Rules Committee voted down a series of proposals from the Sanders delegation to reform the most glaring anti-democratic features of the party's primary and caucus process, negotiators met in secret for several hours and forged an agreement to create a reform commission to change those rules for future elections.

"Let me call us America's party," said Texas Congresswomen Sheila Jackson, who rose to support the proposal after opposing the Sanders camp's amendments only hours before. "And America's party, the Democratic Party, links arms with our brothers and sisters from Senator Sanders, and the journey that they made and their supporters, and the journey that was made by Hillary Rodham Clinton's supporters.

"But most of all what I want to say is that divide is no more," she continued. "That we will climb this journey of victory together. That our arms will be linked and we will go to the floor of this great convention. And I am here to say thank you for being who you are. For I see that mountain that we have been challenged to cover, and I am going to say, we shall overcome and elect the next president of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, together... together... together."

The reform commission, which was then approved with 158 yeses, 6 nos and 1 abstention, will look at the main grievances raised by Sanders during the 2016 nominating season: that state party-run caucuses were non-democratic in their counting and allocation of delegates to the next stages in the process, and will, according to Sanders delegates who negotiated, shrink by two-thirds the number of so-called superdelegates, or the party insiders who comprise one-sixth of the 2016 national convention delegates.

"I rise in support of this measure because this is the result of reasoned discussions by many leaders within both campaigns, but it is truly driven by an activism, an activism within the Democratic Party that has been embraced, that has been engaged, and that we should continue to promote," said Paul Feeney, a Sanders delegate who headed his campaign in Massachusetts and Connecticut. "It's no coincidence that so many amendments have been filed today about superdelegates. The supporters of Bernie Sanders have risen up across this country. Acted up. Not to demand a new party, but to make the Democratic Party even better. That's what we're doing with this amendment. That's what we are doing with this revolution that is also an evolution."

The turnaround came after a frustrating afternoon for Sanders delegates, when it seemed the convention's rules committee was parting ways from the party's platform committee by thwarting their call for democratic reforms. The Sanders campaign won 13 million votes, 1,900 delegates and broke the party's fundraising records for the number of small donors, the delegates told the room, in part to push for concessions on the reforms they sought.

But before panel chair Barney Frank called a recess after 4pm, the convention Rules Committee repeatedly rejected a series of reforms to their "superdelegate" system, despite the pleas of Sanders delegates who urged the 165-member body to accommodate millions of voters who want a more open and less rigged presidential nominating process.

Superdelegates are top elected federal and state officials, state party leaders and key allies like labor union executives who can cast a vote for the presidential nominee and also sit on a range of convention committees, from drafting the platform to rules. For months, Sanders and his supporters have complained that the system gave Clinton an unfair lead as hundreds of party officials sided with her before states even started voting, which tilted the media coverage despite Sanders rallies drawing many thousands.

His delegates were hoping to convince the party to change that system, as well as reform the caucus process and adopt more open primaries, in which any voter, not just registered Democrats could participate. But several hours into hearings on Saturday seemed to signal that a majority of the rules panel were not willing to shake up the party's status quo.

Before they broke to negotiate and propose the commission, the panel heard short debate and then voted down a handful of reforms, from eliminating the system of superdelegates in its entirety to reducing their numbers and limiting their voting.     

"I am asking those of you from the Clinton camp to take heed," said Julie Hurwitz, a Sanders delegate from Detroit, speaking in favor of a compromise that would have let superdelegates vote if there was no clear nominee on the first convention ballot. "I would ask you to not just blindly vote no, no, no… The stakes are so high that I plead for you to take this issue seriously."

"We have had these rules in place for 30 or 40 years," said George Albro, a Sanders delegate from New York, responding to those who said now was not the time to act. "We've had a lot of time to study it. We don't have a lot of time to change it. If we walk out of this room with our heads hanging low… The only standard that we are holding the DNC to is the standard of democracy."

But a series of amendments were repeatedly rejected by two-to-one margins, especially after longtime officeholders said the superdelegate system never swayed a presidential nomination by ignoring the popular vote.

"This is more non-democratic," said Jackson Lee in response to a proposal cutting the number of superdelegates. "The [origin of] superdelegates was a healing process, when the party was fractured… It was not to divide us, it was not to be an elite process."

She argued that superdelegates allowed the party to elevate many people of color and those from rural areas. However, that explanation, while swaying a majority of Rules Committee members, was not persuasive to Sanders delegates. They told the room the party must send a signal to the millions drawn to their campaign that their call for a more open process was heard.

"This is the correct forum to have this discussion," said North Carolina's Chris O'Hara. "With all due respect… if superdelegates were put in place to heal a divided party, we are a divided party… I beseech you to actually listen."

"The Republicans have basically nominated a fascist. It's close. Please take a critical look at this," said Delaware's Rebecca Powers.

"I think this is the time for this," said Miami's Bruce Jacobs. "You are sending a message to all the people coming into the party."
The Rules Committee compromise came after heavy pressure from Democratic-leaning organizations, which gathered more than 750,000 signatures calling for change, flew a plane over Philadelphia Friday calling for an end to superdelegates, and sent thousands of tweets to rules committee members. There was high interest in the votes, and shouts of "shame, shame, shame" from outside the committee room could be heard on a live Youtube stream of the meeting.

The groups that urged the DNC to end superdelegates include Courage Campaign, Credo, Daily Kos, Demand Progress/Rootstrikers, Democracy for America, Center for Popular, Democracy, MoveOn, National Nurses United, New Democrat Network, the Other 98%, Presente, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Progressive Democrats of America, Progressive Kick, Reform the DNC, and Social Security Works.

Editor's note from AlterNet: Another reform proposal, to push the party to open its primaries to all registered voters, not just Democrats, was rejected on Saturday evening. Today Open Primaries, a non-profit electoral reform organization, brought 40,000 signed petitions to the meeting, a release noted. "It was an honor to stand up for the 26.3 million registered voters who couldn't vote in this presidential election," Maggie Wunderly, a Rules Committee member from Illinois said in the release.

News Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Federal "Blue Lives Matter" Legislation Picks Up Steam, Advances Myth That Cops Are Under Threat

If Donald Trump's "Law and Order" convention is any indication, Republicans in Congress could soon try to amend federal law to equate violence against police officers to assaults fueled by bigotry.

The Blue Lives Matter Act of 2016, which was introduced to the House in April, gained two co-sponsors in the two weeks prior to the Republican Convention. The bill would amend Chapter 13 of Title 10 of the US Code to "make an attack on a police officer a hate crime."

Trump's convention focused heavily on the idea that crime is out of control, in part, because police are on the receiving end of unfair criticism.

"I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police," Trump said during his speech on Thursday. "When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order our country."

The "Blue Lives Matter" bill is named after a retort to protesters decrying violent police attacks on the black community, which often go unpunished. It was first coined in November 2014 by a radio personality defending Darren Wilson -- the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager and resident of Ferguson, Mo.

While those who attack police officers already face the heavy brunt of the law, cops who kill civilians, regardless of their skin color, rarely do. The Wall Street Journal noted that 12 police were charged for crimes in the US, despite killing 1,200 people on-duty. None were convicted, including three of the five officers who have been acquitted after taking part in Freddie Gray's homicide.

Gray, a Baltimore resident, was killed by local police after being placed on his stomach, unsecured, in the back of a police van -- after being illegally arrested. Parts of the city erupted in protests after Gray was killed.

After the killing last week of three police officers in Baton Rouge, La., there had been 31 cops killed this year in the line of duty. According to The Guardian, 148 of the 599 people killed by police in the US this year have been black.

The federal effort to make cop-killing a hate crime comes alongside pushes on the state level. Next month, Louisiana's "Blue Lives Matter" law goes into effect. Legislators in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Florida have introduced similar initiatives.

The House bill's sponsor is Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), a deeply conservative lawmaker who supports banning Syrian refugees, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and shredding the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran. The Blue Lives Matter Act's sixteen co-sponsors are all also Republicans.

A similar bill was introduced in the US Senate in 2007. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and now-former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) were the sponsors of that legislation, which would have added mandatory minimum sentences for certain violent crimes against police officers.

The legislation was named The Daniel Faulkner Law Enforcement Officers and Judges Protection Act, after the Philadelphia police officer for whose 1983 murder Mumia Abu-Jamal was sentenced to be executed.

Critics have said Abu-Jamal's due process was systematically violated throughout courtroom proceedings. Amnesty International called his trial "manifestly unfair." In 2011, Jamal's death sentence was commuted to life without the possibility of parole. A former Black Panther, Abu-Jamal is widely reviled by conservatives as a poster-boy cop-killer.

Hate crime legislation is not just meant to protect people who are especially likely to be victims of crime, but victims who have less access to justice without intervention by constitutional powers. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was enacted in 2009 in part to provide a federal remedy when local jurisdictions were unwilling or unable to prosecute violent crimes motivated by prejudice. The act is named for two murder victims: Shepard, tortured and crucified because he was gay, and Byrd, a black man lynched by a gang of white supremacists who dragged him over a mile behind a speeding pickup truck.

A federal hate crime prosecution means harsher mandatory penalties for crimes against police, already an aggravated offense in most jurisdictions, and creates an opening for what is arguably a double jeopardy. Federal prosecutors would be able to bring hate crime cases against defendants acquitted in state court. They would also better be able to coerce defendants into pleading under threat of long prison sentences.

Legal commentary site Mimesis Law called the proposed "Blue Lives Matter" bill "a slap in the face for hate crimes," saying Buck had "aped" earnest existing hate crime legislation.

Included among the organizations lobbying for the legislation are the National Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of Police Organizations. The former has been the target of Black Lives Matters protests this week. Demonstrators say the institution is routinely "defending officers accused of brutality," according to "Democracy Now."

Police departments are also natural allies for the National Rifle Association (NRA), despite the fact that cops are often worried about the spread of high-powered guns throughout US streets. Some large police associations have split from the NRA politically in recent years, but it still enjoys a cozy relationship with departments and personnel thanks to fundraising ties and firearms certifications.

Prominent NRA spokesperson Wayne LaPierre has spoken in support of Buck's bill and has even given an address titled "Blue Lives Matter" at a police association annual banquet. Two months ago the NRA released a video called The Brave Who Wear the Badge, labeling protesters as "ungrateful," and calling their criticism of police "unjust" and "shallow." Many of the corporations for whom the organization lobbies market products to law enforcement, like TASER, Remington, Winchester, and Lenco.

Many of these companies have seen a threat to their bottom lines in widespread criticism of militarized police ordinance (though as with Executive limitations on civil forfeiture, there are ample loopholes). The Blue Lives Matter Act and its local sister statutes strengthen public perception, which is contrary to statistical evidence, that police officers are under heightened threat and that expansion in the scope and deployment of law enforcement arsenals is justified.

News Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400