Truthout Stories Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:10:17 -0400 en-gb Trump Touts Drilling's Potential, Botches Facts, at Shale Industry Conference

The shale gas and oil industry gathered in Pittsburgh last week for a major annual East Coast conference, Shale Insight 2016, and to hear the words of presidential candidate Donald Trump, who served as the keynote speaker.

"It's great to be with so many of my friends," Trump began. "Oh, you will like me so much."

Then, right out of the gate, Trump botched his facts about the shale industry he was there to address.

"Do you know all of my life, that business has never had problems, but in the last seven or eight years, it's been tough," he said. "With the EPA, with all of the difficulties you're going through."

As other speakers at the conference had noted, about eight years ago, the Marcellus shale industry barely existed -- and the last seven or eight years have seen the industry's highest peaks, not just its recent lows. In fact, 2008 was the year that Prof. Terry Engelder first made national headlines by claiming that the Marcellus might theoretically contain trillions of cubic feet of gas, sparking one of the nation's largest shale drilling land rushes.

And while many in the oil industry have expressed displeasure with the EPA, the industry's current downturn is generally blamed on plunging oil and gas prices in the US and worldwide, not on regulations.

These facts aside, Trump seemed to assume -- in many cases, rightly, judging by the periodic applause from the audience -- that he was among friends.

"You are going to like Donald Trump," he told the crowd of shale executives, "and all of the workers that get put to work, they're going to love Donald Trump."

But many of those workers themselves seemed to disagree. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66 pulled its regular $10,000 sponsorship from the Shale Insight conference over Trump's appearance. "There’s just no way that I was going to associate Local 66 with any function that gives this guy an avenue to speak," Jim Kunz, the union's business manager, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

For the next 40 minutes or so, Trump's remarks continued much along these lines -- a mix of claims that failed to withstand fact checks, striking self-contradictions, and a general warmth toward the oil industry along with an inflated expectation of what that industry could achieve.

"America is sitting on a treasure trove of untapped energy," Trump told the crowd. "Some $50 trillion in shale energy, oil reserves and natural gas on federal lands, in addition to hundreds of years of coal energy reserves. It's all upside for this country."

For the gathered shale industry reps, delivering the $50 trillion that Mr. Trump projected would be quite a feat, given their recent track record.

Last year, the oil and gas industry's 50 largest companies generated a net loss of $111.99 billion dollars, more than enough to wipe out their total gains from the previous three years of operations combined, an Ernst and Young report published this year concluded.

This year's Shale Insight conference was strikingly smaller and less robust than events just a few years ago, reflecting an industry that has suffered layoffs, massive write-downs, and investigations for allegedly overstating the value of their oil and gas reserves (including a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the country's largest oil company, ExxonMobil, that was announced just last week).

Trump suggested that the oil industry's troubles stemmed from over-regulation, saying that if he was elected, he would lift "the restrictions on American energy," which he predicted would create benefits including 500,000 new jobs -- every year.

Delivering those jobs would also be an extraordinary achievement, given that, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, the drilling industry managed to create a total of just 161,600 jobs from 2007 to 2012 -- several years when the shale rush was sweeping across the US -- and that many of those jobs have now been lost in recent layoffs.

Trump's remarks betrayed more fundamental misunderstandings of the oil industry.

"And remember, every energy dollar that isn't harvested here in America is harvested instead in a foreign country, often foreign countries not very friendly to us," he said, seeming to ignore the fact that oil and gas rock formations can only be drilled from the country where they are physically located.

"That not only means that we're sending our jobs to those countries," he said, "but it means that energy is being produced in foreign countries that lack our high environmental and conservation standards, which we want to keep."

"We're going to be cutting -- massively -- regulations," he added, shortly after saying he wanted to keep the very environmental and conservation standards that those regulations create.

It's the kind of dizzying logic that has caused many commentators to say they find Trump's beliefs difficult to pin down or inconsistent.

Rally, Protest Outside Shale Insight 2016

Outside the convention center, about 150 protesters gathered for a rally and march.

"It's not really about jobs, it's about money," said Erin Kramer, a protester and organizer with OnePittsburgh. "Trump illustrates that to a T -- with the package of that mass capitalism you also get a whole bunch of hate, a whole bunch of racial unrest and human rights violations."

Conference organizers indicated that Hillary Clinton was invited to attend, but told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she declined, citing scheduling conflicts.

While Trump repeatedly called on the shale gas industry to help him get out the vote in November, before the event, it seemed he still had work to do to gain their enthusiastic support.

Within the Republican party, Trump has been an extraordinarily divisive figure, with many prominent Republicans refusing to endorse him. And when it comes to contributions from oilfield workers, Trump's reception from them has been notably muted.

"As of last week, Republican nominee Donald Trump raised a paltry $245,000 from individuals working in the oil and gas industry, according to figures provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics," NPR's State Impact recently reported. (By contrast, Mitt Romney raised $5.9 million from the oil and gas industry in 2012.)

In Pittsburgh, Trump arrived for his speech late, then kept the executives, who included top officials at major oil and gas companies, waiting as conference organizers informed the crowd that Trump was pausing to spend another several minutes giving an interview, rather than speaking to the hundreds of businesspeople and journalists there to hear him speak.

But once he arrived on stage, Trump tried hard to make his own support for the fossil fuel industry quite clear.

"Producing more American energy is a central part of my plan to make America wealthy again, especially for the poorest Americans," he said. "I knew I'd have to make that statement in order to get you guys a little bit enlivened. Oh well, you'll like the rest of what I've got to say even more."

Trump also used a significant portion of his time at the podium to comment on protests over the police killings of black Americans, and it was those remarks that drew the most attention from the national media. He decried recent protests in Charlotte, North Carolina, which were sparked by the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott, father of seven, who neighbors say was waiting for his son to arrive on a school bus.

Even before the police released video of that death, whose circumstances they've disputed, Trump had made up his mind about who he was behind. "The men and women in blue need your support," Trump told the crowd. "They need your thanks and they need your gratitude."

He seemed to suggest that Black Lives Matter protests were fueled not by anger over the police killings of black Americans, but by drugs. "And if you're not aware, drugs are a very, very big factor in what you're watching on television at night," Trump told the crowd.

Clinton supporters quickly seized on Trump's remarks, especially his comments disparaging the protests over police violence.

"Today, in a room full of oil executives, Trump blamed the Charlotte protests on 'drugs' and insinuated that his administration would have no 'compassion' when it comes to criminal justice," Brad Woodhouse, president of Correct The Record, which describes itself as "a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC," said in a statement. "Despite weeks of so-called outreach to communities of color, Trump today showed us who he really stands with: wealthy fossil fuel special interests."

To be sure, Trump was in Pittsburgh primarily to discuss another conflict -- the fight over the fate of the fossil fuel industry.

"It's war," Trump said. "And you people know it's war."

The stakes are indeed high. Climate scientists warn that if the world's remaining oil, gas, and coal are burned, the climate consequences would be extraordinarily catastrophic.

In an open letter last week, 375 members of the National Academy of Scientists, including Steven Hawking, issued a grave warning. "It is of great concern that the Republican nominee for President has advocated US withdrawal from the Paris Accord," the scientists wrote. "The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting -- for our planet's climate and for the international credibility of the United States."

Trump made it clear that if he was elected, his administration would go further, repealing several measures aimed at curbing climate change. "We will eliminate the highly invasive 'waters of the US' [Clean Water Act] rule and scrap the $5 trillion Obama-Clinton climate action plan and the Clean Power Plan," he told the crowd.

Then he left the room to a standing ovation.

News Tue, 27 Sep 2016 11:55:19 -0400
Education Department Terminates Agency That Allowed Predatory For-Profit Colleges to Thrive

The Education Department announced last week that it is stripping the powers of one of the nation's largest accreditors of for-profit schools.

The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or ACICS, has been under scrutiny for continuing to accredit colleges whose students had strikingly poor outcomes.

As ProPublica has reported, schools accredited by the agency on average have the lowest graduation rates in the country and their students have the lowest loan repayment rates.

Accreditors are supposed to ensure college quality, and their seal of approval gives schools access to billions of federal student aid dollars.

As we have also reported, two-thirds of ACICS commissioners -- who make the ultimate decisions about accreditation for schools -- were executives at for-profit colleges. Many of the commissioners worked at colleges that were under investigation.

Critics who've pointed to abuses by for-profit colleges celebrated last week's action.

"The rot from poor behavior spread beyond just the for-profit schools to the people who were supposed to be looking over them," said Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress. "This is an extremely important decision both in protecting students and taxpayers."

ACICS accredits over 200 colleges, which enroll an estimated 600,000 students. Schools accredited by ACICS received around $5 billion in federal student aid last year.

Two of the nation's largest chains of for-profit colleges -- Corinthian Colleges and ITT Educational Services -- both remained accredited by ACICS while facing multiple investigations from government agencies before they shut down.

"ACICS's track record does not inspire confidence," wrote Education Department Chief of Staff Emma Vadehra in a letter to the agency's chief executive last week.

Over the past few months, a growing chorus of critics have called on the Education Department to take action, including more than a dozen state attorneys general, over 20 consumer protection and advocacy groups, and members of Congress.

In June, the Education Department released a report on ACICS that raised 21 red flags, including about the agency's reticence to sanction bad schools and even to verify the accuracy of schools' metrics. The report also highlighted the agency's lack of policing potential conflict-of-interest issues of its own board.

ACICS has said it plans to appeal last week's decision to Education Secretary John King.

"While we are disappointed in this decision, ACICS plans to continue diligent efforts to renew and strengthen its policies and practices necessary to demonstrate this agency's determination to come into full compliance," said the agency's chief executive Roger Williams in a statement posted on the agency's website.

News Tue, 27 Sep 2016 11:41:48 -0400
Russian-Born Oil Magnate Gives Big to Trump Campaign

Donald Trump has an interesting relationship with Russia, to say the least. He's praised Vladimir Putin. His former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had business dealings with pro-Russia leaders in Ukraine. US intelligence officials are investigating whether one of Trump's foreign policy advisers met with senior Russia officials to discuss lifting economic sanctions in the event of a Trump presidency.

Here's another tie: Simon Grigorievich Kukes, former chief executive of a now-defunct Russian oil company once owned by the government, who contributed more than $150,000 to Trump's campaign and joint fundraising committee, Trump Victory. This is the first election cycle he has contributed, according to FEC documents. Kukes gave $2,700 directly to Trump's campaign in March, and then a total of $149,000 to Trump Victory in June and July; another $2,700 of that went to Trump directly, while the remainder was divided between the Republican National Committee's main account, its convention account and its headquarters account.

Kukes headed Yukos Corp. for a year starting in June 2003, replacing Putin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the wealthiest man in Russia at the time. In what was widely seen as a political prosecution, Khodorkovsky was charged with fraud and sent to prison for 10 years. An international court ruled in 2014 that Putin's government would have to pay $50 billion for using tax claims to take control of and bankrupt Yukos. The court said the government was trying to silence Khodorkovsky, who was using his riches to fund opposition parties to Putin.

Born in the then-USSR, Kukes immigrated to the US in his twenties and became an American citizen, but has gone back and forth between Russia and the US since then. Kukes served as president and CEO of Russia's Tyumen Oil Company from 1998 to 2003. After his stint at Yukos, he was general director of ZAO Samara-Nafta, a Russia-based oil producing company and subsidiary of Lukoil, one of Russia's largest oil companies, and was a partner at Hess Corporation, a New York-based oil and gas company.

Although he listed his occupation as "retired" in FEC documents, Kukes appears to be busy:

He's CEO of NAFTA Consulting, a firm that advises American and Russian oil and gas companies on how to do business together. And he's also on the board of Leverate, an on-demand software company for foreign exchange brokers. 

Kukes has another link with Trump: He bought a five-room condominium at Trump Parc in Midtown West for $1.7 million in 2000, according to the Observer, (which is published by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law.)

Trump isn't the only beneficiary of Kukes' funds: He also contributed the max to Elizabeth Cheney's campaign for Wyoming's congressional seat in June. Cheney is the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney.

Neither Kukes nor the Trump campaign had responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Correction, Sept. 27: This post has been corrected to say that Simon Kukes is a former partner at Hess Oil, not a current partner. We regret the error.

Research director Sarah Bryner contributed to this post.

News Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Expanding the Debate: Jill Stein Spars With Clinton and Trump (Part 2)

On Monday night, the two major-party candidates squared off for the first presidential debate. It was one of the most anticipated debates in US history. Ahead of the event, TV network executives predicted as many as 100 million people across the United States would tune in. Many more also watched from around the world, including across Asia, Europe and in Latin America. But these viewers did not see any third-party candidates on stage. So, in a Democracy Now! broadcast special, we invited Dr. Jill Stein to respond to the same questions posed to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Please check back later for full transcript.

News Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Expanding the Debate: Jill Stein "Debates" Clinton and Trump (Part 1)

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton faced off Monday night in one of the most anticipated debates in US history. The debate was held at Hofstra University on Long Island and moderated by NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. Throughout the 90-minute, often antagonistic, debate, Clinton and Trump sparred on everything from foreign policy to trade deals to personal stamina. But third-party candidates, including Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein, were excluded from the debate stage under stringent rules set by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties. For more, we air excerpts from the presidential debate and get response from Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein.


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

AMY GOODMAN: While the Green Party's Jill Stein was escorted off the campus at Hofstra, what would it sound like if she actually participated in the debate? Well, today, as is our tradition, Democracy Now! expands the debate. Debate moderator Lester Holt will ask Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump questions. After their responses, we stop the tape to give Dr. Jill Stein a chance to answer the same question from her own podium. We invited Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson to join us, as well, but he couldn't make it. NBC News host Lester Holt, take it away.

LESTER HOLT: We're calling this opening segment "Achieving Prosperity." And central to that is jobs. There are two economic realities in America today. There's been a record six straight years of job growth, and new census numbers show incomes have increased at a record rate after years of stagnation. However, income inequality remains significant, and nearly half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Beginning with you, Secretary Clinton, why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American workers?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, thank you, Lester, and thanks to Hofstra for hosting us.

The central question in this election is really what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we'll build together. Today is my granddaughter's second birthday, so I think about this a lot.

First, we have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. That means we need new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes. I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business, because most of the new jobs will come from small business.

We also have to make the economy fairer. That starts with raising the national minimum wage and also guarantee, finally, equal pay for women's work. I also want to see more companies do profit sharing. If you help create the profits, you should be able to share in them, not just the executives at the top.

And I want us to do more to support people who are struggling to balance family and work. I've heard from so many of you about the difficult choices you face and the stresses that you're under. So let's have paid family leave, earned sick days. Let's be sure we have affordable child care and debt-free college.

How are we going to do it? We're going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.

Finally, we, tonight, are on the stage together, Donald Trump and I. Donald, it's good to be with you. We're going to have a debate where we are talking about the important issues facing our country. You have to judge us: Who can shoulder the immense, awesome responsibilities of the presidency? Who can put into action the plans that will make your life better? I hope that I will be able to earn your vote on November 8th.

LESTER HOLT: Secretary Clinton, thank you. Mr. Trump, the same question to you. It's about putting money -- more money into the pockets of American workers. You have up to two minutes.

DONALD TRUMP: Thank you, Lester.

Our jobs are fleeing the country. They're going to Mexico. They're going to many other countries. You look at what China is doing to our country in terms of making our product: They're devaluing their currency, and there's nobody in our government to fight them. And we have a very good fight, and we have a winning fight, because they're using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China, and many other countries are doing the same thing. So we're losing our good jobs, so many of them.

When you look at what's happening in Mexico, a friend of mine who builds plants said it's the eighth wonder of the world. They're building some of the biggest plants anywhere in the world, some of the most sophisticated, some of the best plants. With the United States, as he said, not so much. So, Ford is leaving. You see that, their small car division leaving, thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio. They're all leaving. And we can't allow it to happen anymore.

As far as child care is concerned and so many other things, I think Hillary and I agree on that. We probably disagree a little bit as to numbers and amounts and what we're going to do, but perhaps we'll be talking about that later.

But we have to stop our jobs from being stolen from us. We have to stop our companies from leaving the United States and, with it, firing all of their people. All you have to do is take a look at Carrier air conditioning in Indianapolis. They left, fired 1,400 people. They're going to Mexico. So many hundreds and hundreds of companies are doing this. We cannot let it happen.

Under my plan, I'll be reducing taxes tremendously, from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies, small and big businesses. That's going to be a job creator like we haven't seen since Ronald Reagan. It's going to be a beautiful thing to watch. Companies will come. They will build. They will expand. New companies will start. And I look very, very much forward to doing it. We have to renegotiate our trade deals, and we have to stop these countries from stealing our companies and our jobs.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Jill Stein?

DR. JILL STEIN: So, I'll start just by thanking Democracy Now! for holding a real debate, which the American people are clamoring for. Over 75 percent of Americans are saying they want an open debate. The two candidates of the establishment parties are the most disliked and untrusted in our history, so we owe the American people a full debate.

On this question of prosperity, I think Donald Trump knows what he's talking about, about the offshoring of jobs, because, in fact, Donald Trump has offshored all of his jobs, aside from his real estate. All of the products that he manufactures and markets, in fact, are produced offshore. And he, in fact, has been an advocate of closing factories, moving them offshore or down south, and then moving them back -- in this case, to Michigan -- so that workers' wages could be suppressed. So, indeed, he does exemplify the very problem that he is talking about.

The prosperity issue has really reached crisis proportions, because prosperity has gone to the top, not to American workers who are struggling. Half of Americans are basically in poverty or near poverty and struggling to survive. So we need truly transformative solutions. This won't be solved around the margins.

My campaign is calling for a Green New Deal, which is an emergency jobs program that will create 20 million good-wage, living-wage jobs as part of solving the emergency of climate change. So we -- we call for 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2030, in time to actually solve the climate crisis. And in doing so, we would revive the economy, turn the tide on climate change and actually improve our health so much by phasing out fossil fuels, which in fact kill 200,000 people every year and cause lots more illness in addition to that, but we gain so much money by saving on these needless sick care expenditures that that savings alone is enough to pay the costs of the Green New Deal.

And in addition, 100 percent renewable energy makes wars for oil obsolete. And we call for cutting the military budget from this bloated, dangerous budget, in fact, which is bankrupting us, and putting our dollars into true security here at home.

AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton?

HILLARY CLINTON: I know how to really work to get new jobs and to get exports that help to create more new jobs.

LESTER HOLT: Very quickly --

DONALD TRUMP: But you haven't done it in 30 years or 26 years, any number you want to --

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I've been a senator, Donald.

DONALD TRUMP: You haven't done it. You haven't done it.

HILLARY CLINTON: And I have been a secretary of state.

DONALD TRUMP: And excuse me.

HILLARY CLINTON: And I have done a lot --

DONALD TRUMP: Your husband signed NAFTA, which was one of the worst things that ever happened to the manufacturing industry.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that's your opinion. That is your opinion.

DONALD TRUMP: You go to New England, you go to Ohio, Pennsylvania, you go anywhere you want, Secretary Clinton, and you will see devastation where manufacture is down 30, 40, sometimes 50 percent. NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country.

And now you want to approve Trans-Pacific Partnership. You were totally in favor of it. Then you heard what I was saying, how bad it is, and you said, "I can't win that debate." But you know that if you did win, you would approve that, and that will be almost as bad as NAFTA. Nothing will ever top NAFTA.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that -- that is just not accurate. I was against it once it was finally negotiated and the terms were laid out. I wrote about that in --

DONALD TRUMP: You called it the gold standard.

HILLARY CLINTON: I wrote about -- well, I hope -- I --

DONALD TRUMP: You called it the gold standard of trade deals.

HILLARY CLINTON: And you know what?

DONALD TRUMP: You said it's the finest deal you've ever seen.


DONALD TRUMP: And then you heard what I said about it, and all of a sudden you were against it.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality --


HILLARY CLINTON: -- but that is not the facts. The facts are, I did say I hoped it would be a good deal, but when it was negotiated --


HILLARY CLINTON: -- which I was not responsible for, I concluded it wasn't. I wrote about that in my book --

DONALD TRUMP: So is it President Obama's fault?

HILLARY CLINTON: -- before you even announced.

DONALD TRUMP: Is it President Obama's fault?

HILLARY CLINTON: Look, there are different -- there --

DONALD TRUMP: Secretary, is it President Obama's fault?

HILLARY CLINTON: There are different --

DONALD TRUMP: Because he's pushing it.

HILLARY CLINTON: There are different views about what's good for our country, our economy and our leadership in the world. And I think it's important to look at what we need to do to get the economy going again. That's why I said new jobs with rising incomes, investments, not in more tax cuts that would add $5 trillion to the debt --

DONALD TRUMP: But you have no plan.

HILLARY CLINTON: -- but in -- oh, I do. In fact, I have written --

DONALD TRUMP: Secretary, you have no plan.

AMY GOODMAN: Jill Stein?

DR. JILL STEIN: So, clearly more heat than light coming out of much of the discussion in last night's debate. In addition to establishing an emergency jobs program, we need to do another major initiative, and that is to end the predatory student loan debt, which has basically held an entire generation hostage, unable to actually participate in the economy and create a decent future for themselves. So we call for bailing out the students, as the Democrats and Republicans bailed out Wall Street. After Wall Street had crashed the economy through their waste, fraud, and abuse, we say it's about time to bail out the victims of that abuse. This would be the stimulus package of our dreams, to unleash an entire generation that is already trained. They have the skills. They have the passion and the vision. They need to be turned loose by canceling that debt.

There are many ways we can pay for it. It's $1.3 trillion. We came up with $16 trillion to bail out Wall Street when they needed it. We can pay for ending student debt by creating a small tax on Wall Street, for example, or by increasing the income tax on the highest bracket of earners up to, say, 60 or 65 percent. We also call for making higher education free, because, in fact, it pays for itself. For every dollar that we put into higher education, in fact, we get back $7 in return in improved benefits and in actual increased revenues. So, we simply cannot afford not to make public higher education free.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Jill Stein, joining Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in Democracy Now!'s special, "Expanding the Debate," based on last night's debate at Hofstra University, the first presidential debate. This is Democracy Now! This is what democracy sounds like. Back with the debate in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, as we return to our "Expanding the Debate" special, as we air excerpts from the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and expand the debate by giving Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein a chance to respond to the same questions posed to the major-party candidates. NBC News anchor Lester Holt, take it away.

LESTER HOLT: I want to move to our next segment. We move into our next segment talking about America's direction. And let's start by talking about race. The share of Americans who say race relations are bad in this country is the highest it's been in decades, much of it amplified by shootings of African Americans by police, as we've seen recently in Charlotte and Tulsa. Race has been a big issue in this campaign, and one of you is going to have to bridge a very wide and bitter gap. So how do you heal the divide? Secretary Clinton, you get two minutes on this.

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, you're right. Race remains a significant challenge in our country. Unfortunately, race still determines too much, often determines where people live, determines what kind of education in their public schools they can get. And, yes, it determines how they're treated in the criminal justice system. We've just seen those two tragic examples in both Tulsa and Charlotte.

And we've got to do several things at the same time. We have to restore trust between communities and the police. We have to work to make sure that our police are using the best training, the best techniques, that they're well prepared to use force only when necessary. Everyone should be respected by the law, and everyone should respect the law. Right now that's not the case in a lot of our neighborhoods. So I have, ever since the first day of my campaign, called for criminal justice reform. I've laid out a platform that I think would begin to remedy some of the problems we have in the criminal justice system.

But we also have to recognize, in addition to the challenges that we face with policing, there are so many good, brave police officers who equally want reform. So we have to bring communities together in order to begin working on that as a mutual goal.

And we've got to get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. The gun epidemic is the leading cause of death of young African-American men, more than the next nine causes put together.

So we have to do two things, as I said. We have to restore trust. We have to work with the police. We have to make sure they respect the communities and the communities respect them. And we have to tackle the plague of gun violence, which is a big contributor to a lot of the problems that we're seeing today.

LESTER HOLT: All right, Mr. Trump, you have two minutes. How do you heal the divide?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, first of all, Secretary Clinton doesn't want to use a couple of words, and that's "law" and "order." And we need law and order. If we don't have it, we're not going to have a country.

And when I look at what's going on in Charlotte, a city I love, a city where I have investments, when I look at what's going on throughout various parts of our country, whether it's -- I mean, I can just keep naming them all day long -- we need law and order in our country.

And I just got today the -- as you know, the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police. We just -- just came in. We have endorsements from, I think, almost every police group, very -- I mean, a large percentage of them in the United States.

We have a situation where we have our inner cities, African Americans, Hispanics are living in hell, because it's so dangerous. You walk down the street, you get shot. In Chicago, they've had thousands of shootings, thousands since January 1st, thousands of shootings. And I'm saying, "Where is this? Is this a war-torn country? What are we doing?" And we have to stop the violence. We have to bring back law and order. In a place like Chicago, where thousands of people have been killed, thousands over the last number of years -- in fact, almost 4,000 have been killed since Barack Obama became president. Over four -- almost 4,000 people in Chicago have been killed. We have to bring back law and order.

Now, whether or not in a place like Chicago you do stop-and-frisk, which worked very well -- Mayor Giuliani is here -- worked very well in New York. It brought the crime rate way down. But you take the gun away from criminals that shouldn't be having it. We have gangs roaming the street. And in many cases, they're illegally here, illegal immigrants. And they have guns. And they shoot people. And we have to be very strong. And we have to be very vigilant. We have to be -- we have to know what we're doing. Right now, our police, in many cases, are afraid to do anything. We have to protect our inner cities, because African-American communities are being decimated by crime. Decimated.

LESTER HOLT: Your two minutes is -- your two minutes expired.

AMY GOODMAN: Jill Stein?

DR. JILL STEIN: So, first, just to be clear, immigrants are among the most peaceful and nonviolent populations in the United States, so one should not be misled by Donald Trump's efforts to do fear mongering and create animosity towards immigrants.

Where we need to start in addressing this crisis of police violence and the issues of the Black Lives Matter campaign, we need to begin with accountability. We need to ensure that police do not have impunity to wreak havoc in communities of color. And that needs to start with police review boards, or so-called citizen review boards, where the community actually has the ability to control their police rather than having the police control the communities. And those review boards should have the power to hire and fire police chiefs. They should also have the power of subpoena.

In addition, communities should have independent investigators who are available to look into every case of death or serious injury at the hands of police, so that every person who dies in -- with -- due to police actions, their family has a right to know what happened. Each case should be investigated.

And in addition, we call for a truth and reconciliation commission, because we are a society that is divided by fear, that is divided by suspicion, long-standing hatred. In fact, it's known that when slavery was ended, it simply transformed into lynchings, which then led to Jim Crow, which then led to redlining and segregation, and then the war on drugs and then this epidemic of police violence. So there's a long-standing and cumulative legacy of racism and violence that we must come to terms with as a society. So we call for a truth and reconciliation commission in order to truly have a conversation about race, so that we can transcend this history of division and violence and racism.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you. Lester Holt?

LESTER HOLT: But I do want to follow up. Stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.

DONALD TRUMP: No, you're wrong. It went before a judge, who was a very against-police judge. It was taken away from her. And our mayor, our new mayor, refused to go forward with the case. They would have won on appeal. If you look at it, throughout the country, there are many places where it's allowed.

LESTER HOLT: The argument is that it's a form of racial profiling.

DONALD TRUMP: No, the argument is that we have to take the guns away from these people that have them and that are bad people that shouldn't have them. These are felons. These are people that are bad people that shouldn't be -- when you have 3,000 shootings in Chicago from January 1st, when you have 4,000 people killed in Chicago by guns from the beginning of the presidency of Barack Obama, his hometown, you have to have stop-and-frisk. You need more police.

You need a better community, you know, relation. You don't have good community relations in Chicago. It's terrible. I have property there. It's terrible what's going on in Chicago. But when you look -- and Chicago's not the only -- you go to Ferguson, you go to so many different places. You need better relationships. I agree with Secretary Clinton on this. You need better relationships between the communities and the police, because in some cases it's not good.

But you look at Dallas, where the relationships were really studied, the relationships were really a beautiful thing, and then five police officers were killed one night very violently. So there's some bad things going on. Some really bad things.

LESTER HOLT: Secretary Clinton, you want to weigh in?

DONALD TRUMP: But we need -- Lester, we need law and order. And we need law and order in the inner cities, because the people that are most affected by what's happening are African-American and Hispanic people. And it's very unfair to them what our politicians are allowing to happen.

LESTER HOLT: Secretary Clinton?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I've heard -- I've heard Donald say this at his rallies, and it's really unfortunate that he paints such a dire, negative picture of black communities in our country.


HILLARY CLINTON: You know, the vibrancy of the black church, the black businesses that employ so many people, the opportunities that so many families are working to provide for their kids -- there's a lot that we should be proud of and we should be supporting and lifting up.

But we do always have to make sure we keep people safe. There are the right ways of doing it, and then there are ways that are ineffective. Stop-and-frisk was found to be unconstitutional, and in part because it was ineffective. It did not do what it needed to do.

Now, I believe in community policing. And, in fact, violent crime is one-half of what it was in 1991. Property crime is down 40 percent. We just don't want to see it creep back up. We've had 25 years of very good cooperation.

But there were some problems, some unintended consequences. Too many young African-American and Latino men ended up in jail for nonviolent offenses. And it's just a fact that if you're a young African-American man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you are more likely to be arrested, charged, convicted and incarcerated.

So, we've got to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system. We cannot just say law and order. We have to say -- we have to come forward with a plan that is going to divert people from the criminal justice system, deal with mandatory minimum sentences, which have put too many people away for too long for doing too little.

AMY GOODMAN: Jill Stein?

DR. JILL STEIN: Well, let me just comment that Hillary Clinton knows what she's talking about when she refers to the injustices and the racial biases in our criminal justice system. Indeed, it was Bill Clinton's omnibus crime bill of the 1990s, which Hillary supported, that opened the floodgates to mass incarceration and to this assault by police and the criminal injustice system on communities of color. So, indeed, that bill, that she herself promoted, saying how we needed to, quote, "bring them to heel," referring to African-American communities and youth, that indeed does need to be put behind us.

When Donald Trump talks about law and order, the place where law and order is most needed in our society, the place of greatest lawlessness and crime, is actually Wall Street. In fact, all the cops on the beat were laid off prior to the Wall Street crash in the years leading up to it; that is, from the Department of Justice, the FBI investigators, the security and exchange watchdogs had all been laid off. So, we call for actually bringing back the cops on the beat. Wall Street does not regulate itself. It needs people on Wall Street watching Wall Street, so we can in fact catch the crooks before they crash the economy again.

Stop-and-frisk was indeed unconstitutional and was indeed a flagrant case of racial profiling. It's also true that it was not effective. In fact, crime rates were dropping in cities all over the country while they were also dropping in New York. So, to attribute that to stop-and-frisk, which was not causing the reduction around the country, is just wrong thinking.

And then, let me say also, regarding policing, we need to end the broken windows policing, which is confrontational, aggressive policing that results in the kinds of tragedies we saw last week, particularly with Keith Scott, who in fact was just sitting in his car reading a book. It's disputed that he had a gun, as the police claimed, but in fact it is legal to have a gun and to carry a gun openly in North Carolina. So, this is really a classic study of the violence, the inherent violence, of this broken windows policing. Police need to be trained in de-escalation techniques. We need to be demilitarizing our police and changing the hiring practices so that police actually look like the communities that they should be a part of.

AMY GOODMAN: Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, joining Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Democracy Now!'s special, "Expanding the Debate" special. And we'll continue with it in a minute.

Also see: Expanding the Debate: Jill Stein Spars With Clinton and Trump (Part 2)

News Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Classified Information: What You Need to Know

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used a private server to send and receive work-related e-mails. The discovery that these e-mails included some classified information has spurred a contentious debate over whether Clinton jeopardized national security. This discussion has suffered from a lack of public understanding about the classification system and how it works. Below are facts that add important perspective to the issue.

The Facts About Clinton's Emails

The FBI reviewed more than 30,000 e-mails that Clinton's team turned over. Several e-mails showed that State Department staffers were making an effort not to include any classified information in their correspondence. The FBI nonetheless discovered that 110 e-mails included information that was classified at the time the e-mails were sent, but was not marked as such in the e-mails. These included eight e-mail chains containing information classified as "Top Secret," the highest level of classification. An additional three e-mails contained the symbol "(C)," which denotes the lowest level of classification ("confidential"), at the beginning of certain paragraphs.

How Classification Works

Who decides whether to classify information?

Each president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has issued an executive order that governs the classification system. The current order, issued by President Obama on December 29, 2009, is Executive Order 13526 ("EO 13526").

As set forth in the order, the president and certain other high-level executive officials may designate officials as "original classification authorities" ("OCAs"). There were 2,199 such officials in Fiscal Year 2015. These officials are authorized to make original classification decisions.

The standard for classification

OCAs "may" classify information (but are not required to do so) if they determine that "the unauthorized disclosure of the information reasonably could be expected to result in damage to national security," and if the information falls within a list of eight broad categories -- including, for instance, "military plans, weapons systems, or operations," "intelligence sources or methods," and "foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States." Information may be classified as "confidential," "secret," or "top secret," depending on the severity of the potential harm to national security. See EO 13526 sections 1.1 and 1.4.

Although most classification decisions are discretionary, Congress has required the classification of certain types of nuclear information. In addition, EO 13526 states that "The unauthorized disclosure of foreign government information is presumed to cause damage to the national security." "Foreign government information" is defined as information provided to the US by foreign governments with the expectation that the information will be held in confidence. See EO 13526 sections 1.1(d) and 6.1(s).

The process for classification

As described above, the standard for classifying information is a subjective one, and even if the standard is met, classification is usually discretionary. Accordingly, OCAs are required to clearly mark information as classified so that others who use the information know of its status. The marking requirements are fairly elaborate and are set forth in the executive order and implementing regulations.

For e-mails, the highest classification level represented in the e-mail (documents may contain different information that is classified at different levels) must appear at the top and bottom of the text. In addition, each portion of the text -- for example, each paragraph -- must be marked with a symbol designating the classification level for that portion. There also must be a "classification authority block" toward the bottom of the e-mail, identifying the person who classified the information, the source of authority to classify, and the date for declassification. See 32 C.F.R. § 2001.23(b).

Agencies maintain "classification guides," which list specific categories of information that have been classified by OCAs. Agencies are required to keep their guides updated to reflect recent classification decisions. See 32 C.F.R. § 2001.15(d).

Receipt and use of classified information

About 4.5 million people are authorized to have access to classified information. There are two ways in which the classification status of information (including the level of classification) is conveyed to those individuals. First, if they are receiving the information in the form of an e-mail or document, it should be marked. Second, regardless of whether markings appear, the information should be encompassed in one of the categories listed in an agency guide.

The vast majority of people who are authorized to have access to classified information are not OCAs; they cannot classify information in the first instance. However, these individuals may need to communicate already-classified information to others. When they do so, they must properly mark the information as classified -- an act known as "derivative classification."  See 32 C.F.R. §2001.32.

Classified information may only be accessed and handled in secure environments, with the level of security depending on the level of classification. In general, classified information may only be handled in special facilities and may only be processed on special networks contained within such facilities. See 32 C.F.R. Subpart E.

Penalties for mishandling or leaking classified information

The mishandling of classified information is usually dealt with through administrative sanctions. These may include reprimand, suspension without pay, removal, termination of classification authority, or loss or denial of access to classified information. See EO 13526 section 5.5.

Criminal penalties are available for particularly severe abuses. 18 USC. § 1924 imposes penalties for knowingly removing classified material without authority and with the intent to keep it in an unauthorized location. This charge is available only for knowing and intentional mishandling, such as occurred in the cases of former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and former CIA Director John Deutch.

In addition, one provision of the 1917 Espionage Act imposes penalties for allowing, through "gross negligence," the removal of information relating to the national defense from its proper place of custody. (50 USC. § 793(f)) As FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress, the Department of Justice has long had concerns about the constitutionality of this provision and therefore has brought only one such prosecution in the past century.

There are also several criminal provisions that penalize the intentional leaking of classified information, which is considered a much more serious offense. President Obama has brought several prosecutions against low-level government officials after they disclosed information that revealed government fraud, waste, or abuse. In contrast, prosecutions against high-level officials who leak information for strategic or personal purposes are rare. General David Petraeus was prosecuted and pled guilty; he was sentenced to two years' probation and a $100,000 fine. Other officials in this category, however -- including Richard Armitage, Alberto Gonzales, Leon Panetta, and John Brennan -- were not prosecuted or otherwise penalized.  

Problems With the Classification System

"Overclassification" -- the unnecessary classification of information -- is widespread within the federal government. The evidence on this point is overwhelming:

  • Since the inception of the classification system, no fewer than eight blue-ribbon commissions or special congressional investigations, including the 9/11 Commission, have found overclassification to be a significant problem.
  • Current and former government officials have estimated that anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of classified documents could safely be released.
  • When a member of the public asks an agency to declassify a specified document through a process known as "Mandatory Declassification Review," the agency decides in 90 percent of cases that some or all of the information can be released.

In part due to overclassification, the amount of classified information that exists today is staggering:

  • Although classification levels have dipped significantly in the past three fiscal years, there were still more than 50,000 new secrets created in FY 2015, and there were more than 50 million derivative classification decisions.
  • There are more than 2,000 agency classification guides, many of which are hundreds of pages long.
  • The Pentagon's list of code names for highly classified "Special Access Programs" runs 300 pages, leading Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to remark, "There's only one entity in the entire universe that has visibility on all SAPs -- that's God."

In addition, there is a high rate of noncompliance with the procedural rules designed to ensure that the system works as it should. The Information Security Oversight Office ("ISOO"), the government office charged with overseeing classification policy, conducts yearly audits of agencies' classification programs. In FY 2015, ISOO conducted reviews at nine agencies and found the following:

  • Only two of the nine agencies had enacted regulations that fully implemented the standards of EO 13526.
  • In a majority of the reviewed agencies, the classification guides were not complete, not accurate, and/or not current.
  • ISOO reviewed 1,184 classified documents at the nine agencies and found that 49.2 percent of documents were not properly marked. At two of the agencies had an error rate of more 70 percent, and two had an error rate of 60 percent.
  • Training programs were inadequate in most of the agencies reviewed.


The facts above suggest a number of conclusions that may be relevant to the debate over Clinton's e-mails:

  • Because the standard for classification decisions is a subjective one and because most classification decisions are discretionary, a person receiving classified information will not necessarily know that the information is classified unless it is properly marked or included in an accurate and updated agency classification guide.
  • Officials who regularly deal with particular classified programs will likely recognize classified information associated with those programs, regardless of whether it is marked. However, given the number of classified programs and the sheer volume of classified information, no official could be familiar with all of it.
  • The fact that information is classified does not mean that its disclosure could harm national security. Evidence on the prevalence of "overclassification" suggests that most classified information could safely be released.
  • Overclassification exists at all levels. The "top secret" information in Clinton's e-mails, for example, reportedly included references to the CIA's drone strike program. The existence of this program remains highly classified despite the fact that it is well-known around the world and is often referred to by US officials.
  • With only one exception in the past century, the Department of Justice has prosecuted the mishandling of classified information only when it was able to conclude that the person knew he or she was mishandling classified information and intended to do so. 

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News Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Who's on the Ballot? ]]> Art Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400 A Fool's Folly: Donny T's Big Bad Night

Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times) Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)

In the annals of debate lore, what happened at Hofstra on Monday night will be remembered far more for the spectacle than the substance. As the evening wore on, Trump crumbled slowly but surely into vehement incoherence while Clinton smiled her Cheshire Cat smile and baited the hook.

Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times) Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)

The most telling moment of the evening did not come under the hot lights of the debate stage, but backstage in the spin room after the deal went down. Donald Trump went charging into the maw of reporters and microphones to argue that he hadn't actually blown it in front of millions of people. A candidate who races to the spin room post-debate is a candidate very worried about their performance. At one point he was asked if he thought he'd won. His response was classic: "They also gave me a defective mic, did you notice that? My mic was defective within the room. I wonder, was that on purpose? Was that on purpose? I had a mic that wasn't working properly."

Yeah, Donny, that's the ticket. The world heard you loud and clear, but somehow you got this magical pro-Hillary microphone fobbed off on you that turned your well-reasoned erudite profundities into, "I have a son. He's 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it's unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it's hardly doable," at which point a significant segment of the viewing audience turned to their spouses and said, "What does that mean, Marjorie? Is his 10-year-old son going to protect us from 'the cyber'? Must be that damn microphone."

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

It was that kind of a night. Trump flailed around the spin room keeping as much of a game face as could be managed under the circumstances, until his people bundled him out of the room before he could blame everything on the moon being in Leo. You'd think Leo would work in his favor, but no, there was the footage of a highly agitated Trump waving his arms at his staffers in the parking garage before getting stuffed into his rolling cannonball of a van like the world's largest turducken.

If you watched it, you already know the story. If you skipped it -- or passed out halfway through because you took a shot of whiskey every time Trump sniffed -- well, you missed some fun stuff. Both candidates came out strong at the beginning, with Trump being notably effective when he dunned Secretary Clinton over infrastructure, airports and trade bills like NAFTA. Had he actually prepared for the debate instead of spending that time scarfing hot dogs at Nathan's or admiring the crystal at his country club, he could have really caused some trouble for his opponent. Instead, he crumbled slowly but surely into vehement incoherence while Clinton smiled her Cheshire Cat smile and baited him like a master flyfisher. She knew she had him the first time she got the audience to laugh at him, and it showed.

Before the debate, there was a good deal of back and forth about whether moderator Lester Holt should serve as fact-checker for the two nominees. This discussion came about because Donald Trump lies the way other people breathe, a constant exhalation of prevarication that has, until very recently, tied the "news" media in knots. The pattern held true on Monday night. In the space of 90 minutes, Trump:

  • Claimed Clinton had been fighting ISIS for her "entire adult life"; ISIS became corporeal in 2013.
  • Denied saying climate change was a Chinese conspiracy. "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese," he tweeted in 2012, "in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive." This was a claim he repeated more than once.
  • Announced, "My father gave me a small loan in 1975." If by "small" he meant $1 million, followed by another $10 million from his future inheritance, followed by inheriting a share of his father's real estate holdings which were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, then yeah, he got a small loan.
  • Argued that the federal racial discrimination suits brought against him and his father in the 1970 were brought against "many real estate developers" at the time. Nope. Just against the rental properties owned by Trump and Dad. Woody Guthrie wrote a song about it:

I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate
He stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed that color line
Here at his Beach Haven family project

—"Old Man Trump"

Secretary Clinton peddled a fair budget of half-truths and elliptical answers herself -- her numbers on free college tuition were muddied, she actually did call the Trans-Pacific Partnership the "gold standard" of trade agreements before deciding she was against it -- but given the aria of falsehoods coughed up by Trump, she was George Washington and the cherry tree by comparison.

The debate went in this vein, in ever-descending spirals of nonsense, until the true nadir was reached at the very end. "You want to know the truth?" Trump growled into his defective microphone. "I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, 'I can't do it. I just can't do it. It's inappropriate. It's not nice.' But she spent hundreds of millions of dollars on negative ads on me, many of which are absolutely untrue. They're untrue. And they're misrepresentations. And I will tell you this, Lester: It's not nice. And I don't deserve that."

Stone the crows. Donny the Insult Comic Candidate is suddenly flush with concern about people's fee-fees. It appears no one told him politics is a contact sport, and opponents actually do get to strike back against the "Great Man" when he calls them cheaters, insults their families, lies with impunity and generally makes a farce out of every event he participates in. Bring a helmet next time, Donny boy. The pipes, the pipes are calling.

As it turns out, as he admitted in the spin room, he was with this parting pule seeking congratulations for not throwing Bill Clinton's infidelities in Secretary Clinton's face, and in the face of her daughter. To what purpose, who can say. Seeking credit for not being awful is a strange way to peddle your presidential papers.

In the annals of debate lore, what happened at Hofstra on Monday night will be remembered far more for the spectacle than the substance. Birtherism and Trump's tax returns got star billing, but subjects like the Supreme Court and Citizens United/campaign finance never saw the light of day. Typically, as with every other debate on both sides during this campaign, there was a great deal of talk about how broke we are with nary a word offered regarding the astronomically bloated "defense" budget. Natch.

There will be two more debates, plus the VP tilt next week, so who knows? Maybe someone will actually say we don't need the trillion-dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter because people are hungry and need to go to school so they can get a job and pay taxes (that should be spent on things much more important than the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter). Hey, why not? It can't be as preposterous as what happened last night. Let the million flowers bloom.

Opinion Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
A Strategy to Stop the Funding Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline

Chicagoans rallied in front of City Hall and then marched through the downtown to protest the Dakota Access pipeline, September 9, 2016. Virtually every name in the financial pantheon has extended credit in some form to the Dakota pipeline project. Sustained public pressure could help derail those loans.Chicagoans rallied in front of City Hall and then marched through the downtown to protest the Dakota Access pipeline, September 9, 2016. Virtually every name in the financial pantheon has extended credit in some form to the Dakota pipeline project. Sustained public pressure could help derail those loans. (Photo: Bob Simpson / Flickr)

Most Americans live far from the path of the Dakota Access pipeline -- they won't be able to visit the encampments on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation where representatives of more than 200 tribes have come together in the most dramatic show of force of this environmental moment. They won't be able to participate in the daily nonviolent battle along the Missouri River against a $3.7 billion infrastructure project that threatens precious water and myriad sacred sites, not to mention the planet's unraveling climate.

But most of us live near a bank.

Virtually every name in the financial pantheon has extended credit in some form to the Dakota pipeline project.

Maybe there's a Citibank branch in your neighborhood. Or Wells Fargo or Bank of America or HSBC. Maybe you even keep your money in one -- if so, you inadvertently helped pay for the guard dogs that attacked Native Americans as they tried to keep bulldozers from mowing down ancestral grave sites.

Maybe you have a retirement plan invested with Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley -- if so, you helped buy the pepper spray that the company used to clear the way for its crews as they cleared the right of way straight to the Missouri River.

Perhaps you bank overseas. Credit Agricole? Deutsche Bank? Sumitomo? Royal Bank of Scotland? Barclays? Yeah, them too. 

In fact, virtually every name in the financial pantheon has extended credit in some form to the Dakota pipeline project, according to a remarkable dossier assembled by the organization Food and Water Watch. It shows a credit line of $10.25 billion (that's a b) for the companies directly involved in building the project -- from 38 banks -- a list of names that, the group adds, "might give you flashbacks to the 2007 financial crisis." 

Image used with permission © Food & Water Watch /

Sporadic protests have begun at some of the banks -- activists occupied a Vancouver branch of TD Bank and across the continent in Philadelphia held a protest outside another of the giant's outlets. The same thing happened at a Citibank in downtown Chicago.

"It's unlikely that Citibank customers support poisoning indigenous peoples' water, desecrating sacred burial sites, or contributing to global climate change," said Gloria Fallon of Rising Tide Chicago. Which is true.

But banks love these kinds of deals precisely because they're so capital-intensive. (And because they're financially stacked in favor of the developers: Federal tax breaks worth more than $600 million helped make the balance sheet for Dakota Access).

The key Dakota Access loan, says Rainforest Action Network's Amanda Starbuck, is still pending. It's a multibillion-dollar line of credit, but only $1.1 billion of the loan can be doled out until the company "resolves certain governmental permits." Citi, Mizuho, Bank of Tokyo MUFJ, and Mizuho Bank are leaders on that loan. 

Banks love these kinds of deals precisely because they're so capital-intensive.

Many of these banks may be vulnerable to pressure. For one thing, they're eager to appear green: Bank of America, for instance, recently announced plans to make all its bank branches "carbon-neutral" by 2020. Which is nice -- solar panels on the roof of the drive-thru tellers are better than no solar panels. But as Starbuck said, it's basically meaningless stacked up against Bank of America's lending portfolio, chock full of loans to develop "extreme fossil fuels, which are simply incompatible with a climate-stable world."

Put another way: They're going to be the vegan owners of a global chain of slaughterhouses.

RAN's numbers make clear just how mammoth this problem is for those of us fighting to keep fossil fuels in the ground: In June, it reported that just 25 banks have invested "$784 billion in coal mining, coal power, 'extreme oil' and liquefied natural gas facilities between 2013 and 2015." But there are success stories: Australian campaigners, led by indigenous groups downunder and working with campaigners across three continents, persuaded most of the world's banks to stop bankrolling plans for what would have been the world's largest coal mine and port, and in turn that has helped bring the project to a standstill.

The pressure will increase after this week's release of a new report from Oil Change International, which makes clear that the oil fields, gas wells, and coal mines already in operation have enough carbon to carry us past the 2-degree target the world set in Paris a year ago (and to absolutely annihilate the stretch goal of 1.5 degrees).

That is to say: At this point anyone who finances any fossil fuel infrastructure is attempting to make money on the guaranteed destruction of the planet.

So those Dakota Access loans should come under new scrutiny -- moral, as well as financial -- since they assume that governments won't enforce their Paris promises. That's a gamble accountants might want to think twice about, especially after this week's news that the SEC was investigating Exxon for its refusal to write down the value of its reserves in light of the global accords.

It's probably sustained public pressure that will do the most good.

And at least one bank is waking up. Amalgamated -- the New York-based, labor-affiliated bank -- announced jointly with Bank of America that it would make its branches carbon neutral. More significantly, it also announced it was divesting from the fossil fuel business. "We need to be honest, we have a growing environmental crisis unfolding and Amalgamated Bank will no longer sit on the sideline," said Keith Mestrich, President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank. "As an industry that prides itself on innovation and bold action, we must all be leaders and take real action to change our course."

Put another way: They're vegans who will now be lending to tofu makers.

But it's probably sustained public pressure that will do the most good.

"Oil companies are always going to drill for oil and build pipelines -- it's why they exist," says RAN's Scott Parkin. "But the banks funding this pipeline have a choice as to where they put their money. Right now, Citibank, TD Bank, and others have chosen to invest in a project that violates indigenous rights and destroys the climate."

Parkin points to the protests that have already sprung up at dozens of banks from D.C. to New Orleans to Tucson to Long Beach to the Bronx. "We have the power to derail that loan with a different kind of currency," he said. "Putting our bodies on the line at any financial institution that says 'Dakota Access Pipeline, we're open for business.'"

And if anyone has any doubts that civil disobedience can be useful, remember how the amazing activists at Standing Rock forced the federal government to blink, pausing construction earlier this month. Their nonviolent leadership has inspired all of us -- and it should have sent a shiver down the spine of a few bankers. 

Opinion Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:29:32 -0400
The 9/11 Families Deserve Their Day in Court Against Saudi Arabia

Medea Benjamin, of the Code Pink protest group speaks to witnesses at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on America’s counterterrorism relationship with Saudi Arabia, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 24, 2016. (Photo: Zach Gibson / The New York Times)Medea Benjamin, of the CODEPINK protest group, speaks to witnesses at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on the US's counterterrorism relationship with Saudi Arabia, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 24, 2016. (Photo: Zach Gibson / The New York Times)

This week the House and Senate are expected to vote on whether to override the president's veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terror Act (JASTA). JASTA would allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia over allegations Saudi officials were linked to the 9/11 attacks. The bill makes no judgment about Saudi Arabia's responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. It just removes Saudi Arabia's immunity from lawsuit over support for terrorist attacks on US soil. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support the bill.

Under current US law, Americans can sue Iran for terrorism in US courts, but they can't sue Saudi Arabia for terrorism in US courts, because Iran is on the State Department's "state sponsor of terror" list and Saudi Arabia is not. The State Department is allowed to take "broader US foreign policy interests" besides concern about support for terrorism into account in forming its list -- like the Saudi government's cozy relationship with the CIA.

In January, The New York Times reported that:

"The support for the Syrian rebels is only the latest chapter in the decades-long relationship between the spy services of Saudi Arabia and the United States, an alliance that has endured through the Iran-contra scandal, support for the mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan and proxy fights in Africa. Sometimes, as in Syria, the two countries have worked in concert. In others, Saudi Arabia has simply written checks underwriting American covert activities ...

"... the long intelligence relationship helps explain why the United States has been reluctant to openly criticize Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, its treatment of women and its support for the extreme strain of Islam, Wahhabism, that has inspired many of the very terrorist groups the United States is fighting."

To The Times' list of things that the US has been reluctant to criticize Saudi Arabia for because of the CIA's cozy relationship with the Saudi government, we can add targeting civilians in Yemen with US weapons in violation of US law. Last week, 27 senators voted against sending more weapons to Saudi Arabia to use against civilians in Yemen. Why didn't more senators vote against sending more weapons to the Saudis? In part, because "the Saudis are our friends," which really means, "because the Saudis are the CIA's friends."

If you think there should be one standard for judging governments on support of terrorism, regardless of how cozy the government in question is with the CIA, why not call your representative and urge them to vote to override the veto so the 9/11 families can have their day in court? Or, if you can't call, you could send your representative an email.

Opinion Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400