Truthout Stories http://www.truth-out.org Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:11:01 -0400 en-gb Mumia Abu-Jamal Calls From Prison to Comment on DNC, Black Lives Matter and Mass Incarceration http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36997-mumia-abu-jamal-calls-from-prison-to-comment-on-dnc-black-lives-matter-and-mass-incarceration http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36997-mumia-abu-jamal-calls-from-prison-to-comment-on-dnc-black-lives-matter-and-mass-incarceration

As the Democratic National Convention enters its third day here in Philadelphia, one of the city's most famous native sons is observing and covering the proceedings from inside a state prison facility. Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal is a well-known prisoner and also an award-winning journalist whose writing from his prison cell has reached a worldwide audience through his Prison Radio commentaries and many books. Abu-Jamal was convicted of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, but has always maintained his innocence. Amnesty International has found he was deprived of a fair trial. Mumia Abu-Jamal joins us on the phone from the SCIMahanoy state prison in Frackville, Pennsylvania, along with two of his supporters, actor Danny Glover and Larry Hamm, chair of the People's Organization for Progress.

Please check back later for full transcript.

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News Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Danny Glover and Bernie Delegate Larry Hamm: The Sanders Movement Must Stay Mobilized to Push Change http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36996-danny-glover-and-bernie-delegate-larry-hamm-the-sanders-movement-must-stay-mobilized-to-push-change http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36996-danny-glover-and-bernie-delegate-larry-hamm-the-sanders-movement-must-stay-mobilized-to-push-change

The address at the DNC from mothers whose unarmed African-American children were killed by law enforcement, or due to gun violence, marked an "extraordinary moment," says New Jersey delegate Larry Hamm, chair of the People's Organization for Progress. But he adds, "I wish someone would have said police brutality must stop. … In the two years since the death of Michael Brown, 2,500 people have been killed by police in the United States." We are also joined by actor and activist Danny Glover. Both men say they formerly supported Bernie Sanders and now plan to vote for Hillary Clinton. Glover notes, "What we do beyond the 9th of November is the most important thing."

Please check back later for full transcript.

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News Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Elizabeth Warren Names Trump's Racism for What It Is: A Political Weapon http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36995-elizabeth-warren-names-trump-s-racism-for-what-it-is-a-political-weapon http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36995-elizabeth-warren-names-trump-s-racism-for-what-it-is-a-political-weapon

The attention on Day One of the Democratic Convention was on healing rifts in the party, but the most significant moment may have slipped under the radar, in the framing of the arguments against Donald Trump. There, something truly new happened, and no one is yet paying attention.

The standard rips on Trump criticize his personal defects as a bully and a blowhard spewing hate and division through schoolyard taunts spread on Twitter. Comedian Sarah Silverman skewered him along these lines, describing Trump's antics as "major arrested development stuff, that's I'm-still-emotionally-4-and-calling-people-names-from-my-gold-encrusted-sandbox-because-I-was-given-money-instead-of-human-touch-or-coping-tools stuff."

First lady Michelle Obama brilliantly centered the same narrative around what she wants children, hers and the nation's, to learn from public figures. "In this election, and every election," she said, the most important issue is "who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives." And in perhaps the most remarked-upon line of Monday night's speeches, Obama seemingly offered not just an indictment of Trump but sound advice for Hillary Clinton: "When they go low, we go high."

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

Silverman and Obama helped construct striking tonal and emotional distinctions between the Democratic and Republican conventions, sharply contrasting maturity, substance, enthusiasm and humor versus crudeness, fear, empty bombast and outrage. These differences will play an important role in the ensuing months, with the emotional register in particular key as voters so often respond viscerally.

But on another level, these responses to Trump fall short, for they do not address the core of his appeal to millions of voters. Why, precisely, do roaring multitudes rally to his fulminations? Unless Democrats speak to what makes Trump wildly popular, they risk losing the election.

Trump ascended to the pinnacle of the Republican Party by tapping the two great anxieties roiling many white persons in the country: economic distress and the changing face of the country. In Trump's telling, these are not separate issues but one and the same. Demographic change is ostensibly destroying everything good about America, including the economy.

Trump did not originate this message, though he has been more aggressive in spreading it. Instead, he had fertile ground to till: for 50 years, conservatives have been telling white voters they should fear people of color for bringing crime and stealing jobs; they should resent big government for coddling minorities with welfare and through the lax enforcement of criminal and immigration laws; and they should instead trust the marketplace and the job creators.

Meanwhile, Democrats either stayed silent on race, fearing it was too divisive a topic, or imitated the Republicans, competing for the allegiance of racially anxious white voters. But a critical crack in that self-defeating pattern appeared at the Democratic Convention.

As she has over the campaign season so far, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) forcefully pressed the case against Trump, slamming his selfishness, lack of business acumen, multiple bankruptcies and willingness to defraud investors as well as workers. But most important of all, on by far the largest stage she has held to date, Warren called out Trump for his dog-whistle politics.

Warren named Trump's racism for what it is: not simple hatred, but a political weapon. "'Divide and Conquer' is an old story in America," she said, explaining how "poor whites in the South were fed Jim Crow, which told a poor white worker that 'No matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man.' Racial hatred was part of keeping the powerful on top."

Then she connected the past to the present: "That's Donald Trump's America. An America of fear and hate. An America where we all break apart. Whites against blacks and Latinos. Christians against Muslims and Jews. Straight against gay. Everyone against immigrants. . . . . But ask yourself this. When white workers in Ohio are pitted against black workers in North Carolina or Latino workers in Florida, who really benefits?"

There it was: the essence of Trump's secret strategy laid bare. Trump is a billionaire building support among working people by fanning group hatreds. Democrats so far have largely failed to call this out, missing how Trump connects economic fears to racial resentments. But Warren bluntly named it, no more so than when she said "When we turn on each other, rich guys like Trump can push through more tax breaks for themselves and then we'll never have enough money to support our schools, or rebuild our highways, or invest in our kids' future."

An Excerpt from Sen. Elizabeth Warren's Speech

Trump thinks he can win votes by fanning the flames of fear and hatred. By turning neighbor against neighbor. By persuading you that the real problem in America is your fellow Americans -- people who don't look like you, or don't talk like you or don't worship like you. He even picked a vice president famous for trying to make it legal to openly discriminate against gays and lesbians.

That's Donald Trump's America. An America of fear and hate. An America where we all break apart. Whites against blacks and Latinos. Christians against Muslims and Jews. Straight against gay. Everyone against immigrants. Race, religion, heritage, gender, the more factions the better. But ask yourself this. When white workers in Ohio are pitted against black workers in North Carolina or Latino workers in Florida, who really benefits?

"Divide and Conquer" is an old story in America. Dr. Martin Luther King knew it. After his march from Selma to Montgomery, he spoke of how segregation was created to keep people divided. Instead of higher wages for workers, Dr. King described how poor whites in the South were fed Jim Crow, which told a poor white worker that "No matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man." Racial hatred was part of keeping the powerful on top.

And now Trump and his campaign have embraced it all. Racial hatred. Religious bigotry. Attacks on immigrants, on women, on gays. A deceitful and ugly blame game that says, whatever worries you, the answer is to blame that other group, and don't put any energy into making real change.

When we turn on each other, bankers can run our economy for Wall Street, oil companies can fight off clean energy and giant corporations can ship the last good jobs overseas.

When we turn on each other, rich guys like Trump can push through more tax breaks for themselves and then we'll never have enough money to support our schools, or rebuild our highways, or invest in our kids' future.

When we turn on each other, we can't unite to fight back against a rigged system.

Clinton understands that to win the White House she needs the Obama coalition, the so-called "new American electorate" of women, younger voters and people of color. To that end, she started her campaign with major addresses on racial justices issues like voting rights, mass incarceration and immigration.

But the very effort to speak to racial justice framed solely in terms of harms to nonwhite communities risks buttressing Trump's fundamental message. Unvarnished, Trump's core argument is that big government and the Democratic Party have turned their backs on whites, caring more about helping undeserving people of color. Every time Democrats focus on racial minorities -- or women, the disabled, the LGBTQ community, Muslims and so on -- they help confirm in the minds of the many who see themselves as part of "the silent majority" that Trump is basically correct.

Democrats in general and Clinton in particular should follow Warren's lead. Don't abandon talk of racial justice, but make it clear that this is an issue for whites too. Hammer the message over and over that racial fear and other culture-war issues are the divide-and-conquer weapons conservatives have wielded for decades to win popular support for policies that mostly help the plutocrats.

Trump's use of dog-whistle politics in 2016 is egregious, bordering on open demagoguery and deepening the racial wounds in our country. But exactly because it is so obviously central to Trump's frightening success, his blatant racial pandering provides the best opportunity in half a century to confront and defeat the manipulation at the heart of American electoral politics. Warren is pioneering that message. "When we turn on each other, we can't unite to fight back against a rigged system." We should amplify it.

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News Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Slow Death: Is the Trauma of Police Violence Killing Black Women? http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36994-slow-death-is-the-trauma-of-police-violence-killing-black-women http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36994-slow-death-is-the-trauma-of-police-violence-killing-black-women

Diamond Reynolds' live stream of Philando Castile bleeding to death after being shot by Officer Jeronimo Yanez has shocked and dismayed our nation.

It is difficult to imagine the pain of witnessing and archiving the death of a loved one. It is even more difficult to imagine what this must be like when a police officer is pointing a gun at you in front of your four-year-old child. The only word that comes to mind for me is terror, although I am sure that is inadequate. One thing I am sure of: When Philando Castile was killed on July 6, he was not the only victim of police violence in that car. The trauma that Diamond Reynolds and her young daughter experienced marks them as victims as well.

If we as a nation want to truly address the problem of anti-black police violence, then we must shift our national discussions from simply tallying the body count of the immediate dead to assessing the traumatic and long-term deadly effects on the living.

Black Women and Police Violence

One of the critiques movements like #SayHerName have made of our national discussions of anti-black police violence has been the tendency to focus on the deaths of black men. Yet, while black men disproportionately die from the immediate physical assaults of police (bullets, baton blows, Taser shocks), I believe black women die slowly from the long-term effects of this violence. Like a nuclear bomb, the initial death toll is only a fraction of the eventual body count. Fallout kills those in the vicinity of police violence like cancer over time.

The repeated, public and spectacular killing of black people by police reverberates. Communities, witnesses and family members suffer immeasurable, debilitating pain in the wake of these confrontations.

Diamond Reynolds' cries as police officers threw her still-recording phone and arrested her rather than comfort her in the wake of Castile's death encapsulate this trauma. The small voice of Reynolds' four-year-old daughter, who witnessed the shooting from the backseat of the car, punctuates it as well. The torture of having to relive death by recounting it or witnessing the shooting repeatedly on television and social media compounds this suffering in the days and months after the dead are long gone.

We know from the stories of black mothers who have lost their children to state violence that the lingering anguish of living in the aftermath of police violence kills black women gradually. Depressionsuicide, PTSD, heart attacks, strokes and other debilitating mental and physical illnesses are just some of the diseases black women develop as they try to put their lives back together after they lose a child.

To be sure, the police also kill black women directly. At least 15 black women were directly killed by the police in 2015. We must not ignore them. However, if in addition to those deaths, we count the victims of slow death, then black women may well be the population most impacted by police violence.

Diasporic Connections

In my research on the impact of police violence on black communities in the United States and Brazil, I focus on effects of police violence on black women, particularly black mothers.

Like the United States, Brazil has a crisis of police violence -- and most victims are black. A recent Brazilian study estimates that Brazilian police officers kill approximately six people per day. At least 77 percent of those killed are black. This estimate is likely low because many police killings go unreported like they do here in the United States.

On Nov. 28, 2015 military police officers in Rio de Janeiro murdered five unarmed black youth in the working-class neighborhood of Costa Barros. The five were driving home from the park after celebrating 16-year-old Roberto de Souza Penha's first paycheck, and had not committed any crimes. The officers shot 111 rounds at them.

The terror of the Costa Barros massacre did not end in November. Just days ago, on July 7, Joselita de Souza, Roberto's mother, died of what her family members say was heartache.

Joselita was hospitalized with cardio-respiratory arrest on July 4. The doctors attributed this illness to anemia and pneumonia. However, her family members noted that "she had not been eating for about four months. She would only eat soup." They also noted that she suffered from depression after the loss of her son, but did not have the money to pay for a therapist.

Since 2005 I have been collaborating with the Reaja ou Será Mortx! -- React or Die! -- campaign out of Salvador, Bahia. The campaign works with the victims of state violence to seek justice in the wake of police killings.

It was while working with Reaja that I first began to rethink the broad impact of police violence on black women. Co-coordinator Andreia Beatriz dos Santos, a medical doctor, uses the term sequela to describe the cumulative aftereffects of state violence on black communities. Sequela is a medical term that means "an aftereffect of a disease, condition or injury." Police violence, like a disease, has immediate and eventual consequences. In my 2012 interview with Santos, she stated,

"We work most of the time with numbers concerning death or imprisonment, but beyond that there are long lasting, lingering wounds (sequelae) … When we have a boy that is dead, a victim of state violence, the effect on the family and the community is so devastating that we cannot even quantify or qualify its impact."

Sequelae at Home

In my work in Austin, Texas, I have gotten to know some family members of those killed by the police. The story of LaKiza resonates with Joselita's.

Officer Charles Kleinert beat and then shot Larry Jackson Jr. point blank in the back of the neck in July 2013. Jackson was unarmed, and Officer Kleinert was indicted but not convicted although federal charges are pending.

In 2015, I met Larry's sister, LaKiza. She shared with me the devastating impact her brother's death has had on her family. She stopped eating and lost 30 pounds after Larry's death. Her 13-year-old daughter stopped eating and lost 25 pounds. Her mother's health also deteriorated. LaKiza told me that she felt like she was suffering from PTSD.

After the death of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, I spoke with LaKiza again. She said, "every time someone gets killed, it's like ripping the scab off of a healing wound: I relive Larry's death all over again."

Recognizing black women who suffer the trauma of police violence as victims of this violence factors gender into our analyses in important ways.

As we try to hold onto the slippery walls of our national unity, grasping at our democracy, we must recalibrate how we measure the impact of police violence in order to comprehend the magnitude of this epic problem and seek to heal.

The Conversation

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News Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Victory for Purvi Patel, but Still a Loss for Reproductive Rights http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36993-victory-for-purvi-patel-but-still-a-loss-for-reproductive-rights http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36993-victory-for-purvi-patel-but-still-a-loss-for-reproductive-rights

When the alternative was a 20 year prison sentence, it almost feels like a victory to have Indiana woman Purvi Patel's likely prison time reduced by half. While it may be a success for Patel, the decision is by no means a victory for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy -- and it definitely does not resemble justice.

Patel, who was accused and convicted of both feticide and felony neglect of a minor after giving birth to what doctors claim was a live fetus and disposing of the body in a dumpster, will now have the feticide conviction thrown out and the neglect charge reduced.

Molly Redden at The Guardian reports:

In a 42-page ruling, by Judge Terry A Crone, the court reduced the child neglect charge by an order of magnitude, and it reproached prosecutors for charging Patel under the state's 2009 feticide law, saying there was no evidence that lawmakers intended the law to punish pregnant women. Indiana passed the measure in 2009 after a pregnant woman was shot and lost the twins she was carrying. 'Given that the legislature decriminalized abortion with respect to pregnant women only two years before it enacted the feticide statute, we conclude that the legislature never intended the feticide statute to apply to pregnant women,' the decision declared. 'Therefore, we vacate Patel's feticide conviction.'

Of course, feticide was never, ever intended to be applied to the pregnant woman herself, even if Patel had actually miscarried due to the medication she ingested and not simply miscarried naturally on her own.

But Indiana has a history of applying unreasonable charges to pregnant women in order to jail them for harm they may have caused to their pregnancies. After all, it was only a few years earlier that Bei Bei Shuia spent years in jail for murder. Her baby girl died shortly after being born a few weeks early following Shuai's suicide attempt with rat poison.

Shuai, too, eventually had a reduced sentence. Much like Patel, the important part of charging these women was to set test cases to legally present a fetus as an entity with legal rights.

Both in Shuai's case and now in Patel's, where even the reduced "neglect of a dependent" allows a setup for "personhood" of a fetus still in the womb, the attempts to undermine legal abortion are obvious and intentional.

It's a deliberate move that did not go unnoticed by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, a legal group who filed amicus briefs both for Patel and Shuai. Lynn M. Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, via press release stated:

By overturning the feticide conviction and holding that it may not be misused to punish women who have abortions, the court reached a decision that respects the Indiana Legislature's clear intent, is consistent with decisions from sister states, and is in accord with widely held public opinion that women who have or who attempt to have abortions should not be put behind bars.

Meanwhile, NAPW Staff Attorney Lisa Sangoi added, "we are very concerned that any neglect charge was upheld, given the lack of actual evidence of a live birth or that Patel could have, but failed to, obtain medical care immediately following the delivery."

The lesson that can be taken from the court's decision to strike the feticide charge but leave the neglect charge appears to be a simple one: Indiana will continue to pursue ways to punish and jail those who may possibly have induced their own abortion. The state just needs to decide exactly which charge will be the most successful.

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News Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Just a Show: The Calm Sham of the DNC http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/36992-just-a-show-the-calm-sham-of-the-dnc http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/36992-just-a-show-the-calm-sham-of-the-dnc

Delegates react as Hillary Clinton makes a video appearance at the end of the second day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 26, 2016. (Photo: Damon Winter / The New York Times)Delegates react as Hillary Clinton makes a video appearance at the end of the second day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 26, 2016. (Photo: Damon Winter / The New York Times)

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!

There was high drama during the Democratic National Convention last night, but not on the floor of the show. It was in my den. See, my father was a life-long Democrat who loved these conventions the way some people (me) loved Grateful Dead concerts. More to the point, he was a Clinton man to the knife. The high apogee of his long legal career was the near-decade he served as one of Clinton's US Attorneys. He would have eaten fire for Bill Clinton and happily asked for seconds.

When Bill Clinton took the stage last night, I was ready with a big glass of iced whiskey in my hand. However you may feel about the man -- I am not a big fan -- he is a showman; when the Big Dog comes to eat, everything stops. Family tradition.

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

My father died in February. As I watched Clinton embrace the podium, I realized this was the first time ever my father was going to miss a major Clinton address. Bill standing up for his wife at the convention. Missed it by five months, Pop, I thought to myself, and I wept quietly -- not for Bill, but for my father who should have been there to see it -- so as not to disturb my own family. High drama indeed.

Compared to the Republican convention last week, the first two days of the DNC have been about as docile as a deer-filled meadow. Sure, there was the Debbie Wasserman Schultz thing which the media on Monday tried to turn into the Hindenburg catastrophe. She put paid to that effort by dropping the gavel and running out the back door, and good riddance. The Democrats will be dealing with now-documented evidence that Sanders got shafted deliberately and with intent in order to favor Clinton for a long time to come. She was a terrible chairwoman, and her departure is far overdue.

It was a shameful display with the worst possible timing, and could have derailed the whole convention, but then Michelle Obama deployed her amazing grace on Monday night and said, "Nope." Corey Booker would have set his hair on fire if he had any. Elizabeth Warren continued her run as World Heavyweight Champion Of Making Donald Trump Explode ... and then Bernie.

Oh, Bernie. They gave him the honor of the final speaking slot, and he took full advantage. Certainly there was loud disappointment in the hall when he threw his support behind Hillary Clinton, but between that speech and his Tuesday night motion to nominate Clinton by acclimation (while still calling for his votes to be recorded), Bernie Sanders showed himself to be the biggest class act in politics. Be proud, Vermont.

As for the rest of it, Bill was Bill at his usual folksy best and Hillary's satellite appearance had its intended effect, eschewing the Trumpish hogging of the spotlight. The nomination roll call was machine-like in its efficiency.

However, when it was over, I realized something. I don't like Hillary Clinton or her husband. She does not have my vote. I voted for Bill twice, and he went on to sign NAFTA, GATT, the Telecommunications Act and the Defense of Marriage Act into law. That's on my conscience. I voted for John Kerry, who voted for the Iraq War, because I believed a second Bush term was intolerable, and that vote is on my conscience. I voted for Obama, his drones, his fracking enthusiasm, his TPP and his Keystone pipeline, and all that is on my conscience as well. Not this time. I intend to sleep at night come November.

The fact of the matter is that conventions are television shows, period. As far as actual policy substance goes, they carry as much weight as the party platform. Anyone can talk pretty; it's what you do that counts. That being said, conventions are important if only to serve as an example that your party can make the trains run on time, and can snuff out problems before they get out of hand. The RNC was hopeless in that regard, while the DNC has, so far, been right on the beam.

Next up are Joe Biden and Barack Obama tonight, followed by Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech on Thursday. I have no doubt that all three will bring their A-game, and we will all be given a verbal vision of what we should be instead of what we actually are. Whatever; it's just television after all. "Politics," said John Kenneth Galbraith, "is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." That has never been more true than this year.

Still, my father would have liked to see it. I will watch it for him, smile when he would have smiled. I will also shake my fist at the screen, and remember that it's just a show.

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Opinion Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The Effects of Government-Issued Money: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation? http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36991-japan-s-helicopter-money-play-road-to-hyperinflation-or-cure-for-debt-deflation http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36991-japan-s-helicopter-money-play-road-to-hyperinflation-or-cure-for-debt-deflation

Fifteen years after embarking on its largely ineffective quantitative easing program, Japan appears poised to try the form recommended by Ben Bernanke in his notorious "helicopter money" speech in 2002. The Japanese test case could finally resolve a longstanding dispute between monetarists and money reformers over the economic effects of government-issued money.

When then-Fed Governor Ben Bernanke gave his famous helicopter money speech to the Japanese in 2002, he was talking about something quite different from the quantitative easing they actually got and other central banks later mimicked. Quoting Milton Friedman, he said the government could reverse a deflation simply by printing money and dropping it from helicopters. A gift of free money with no strings attached, it would find its way into the real economy and trigger the demand needed to power productivity and employment.

What the world got instead was a form of QE in which new money is swapped for assets in the reserve accounts of banks, leaving liquidity trapped on bank balance sheets. Whether manipulating bank reserves can affect the circulating money supply at all is controversial. But if it can, it is only by triggering new borrowing. And today, according to Richard Koo, chief economist at the Nomura Research Institute, individuals and businesses are paying down debt rather than taking out new loans. They are doing this although credit is very "accommodative" (cheap), because they need to rectify their debt-ridden balance sheets in order to stay afloat. Koo calls it a "balance sheet recession."

As the Bank of England recently acknowledged, the vast majority of the money supply is now created by banks when they make loans. Money is created when loans are made, and it is extinguished when they are paid off. When loan repayment exceeds borrowing, the money supply "deflates" or shrinks. New money then needs to be injected to fill the breach. Currently, the only way to get new money into the economy is for someone to borrow it into existence; and since the private sector is not borrowing, the public sector must, just to replace what has been lost in debt repayment. But government borrowing from the private sector means running up interest charges and hitting deficit limits.

The alternative is to do what governments arguably should have been doing all along: issue the money directly to fund their budgets. Having exhausted other options, some central bankers are now calling for this form of "helicopter money," which may finally be raining on Japan if not the US.

The Japanese Trial Balloon

Following a sweeping election win announced on July 10th, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he may proceed with a JPY10 trillion ($100 billion) stimulus funded by Japan's first new major debt issuance in four years. The stimulus would include establishing 21st century infrastructure, faster construction of high-speed rail lines, and measures to support domestic demand.

According to Gavyn Davies in the July 17th Financial Times:

Whether or not they choose to admit it -- which they will probably resist very hard -- the Abe government is on the verge of becoming the first government of a major developed economy to monetise its government debt on a permanent basis since 1945.

. . . The direct financing of a government deficit by the Bank of Japan is illegal, under Article 5 of the Public Finance Act. But it seems that the government may be considering manoeuvres to get round these roadblocks.

Recently, the markets have become excited about the possible issuance of zero coupon perpetual bonds that would be directly purchased by the BoJ, a charade which basically involves the central bank printing money and giving it to the government to spend as it chooses. There would be no buyers of this debt in the open market, but it could presumably sit on the BoJ balance sheet forever at face value.

Bernanke's role in this maneuver was suggested in a July 14th Bloomberg article, which said:

Ben S. Bernanke, who met Japanese leaders in Tokyo this week, had floated the idea of perpetual bonds during earlier discussions in Washington with one of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's key advisers. . . .

He noted that helicopter money — in which the government issues non-marketable perpetual bonds with no maturity date and the Bank of Japan directly buys them — could work as the strongest tool to overcome deflation . . . .

Key is that the bonds can't be sold and never come due. In QE as done today, the central bank reserves the right to sell the bonds it purchases back into the market, in order to shrink the money supply in the event of a future runaway inflation. But that is not the only way to shrink the money supply. The government can just raise taxes and void out the additional money it collects. And neither tool should be necessary if inflation rates are properly monitored.

The Japanese stock market shot up in anticipation of new monetary stimulus, but it dropped again after the BBC aired an interview with Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda recorded in June. He ruled out the possibility of "helicopter money" -- defined on CNBC.com as "essentially printing money and distributing payouts" -- since it violated Japanese law. As the Wall Street Journal observed, however, Bernanke's non-marketable perpetual bonds could still be on the table, as a way to "tiptoe toward helicopter money, while creating a fig leaf of cover to say it isn't direct monetization."

Who Should Create the Money Supply, Banks or Governments?

If the Japanese experiment is in play, it could settle a long-standing dispute over whether helicopter money will "reflate" or simply hyperinflate the money supply.

One of the more outspoken critics of the approach is David Stockman, who wrote a scathing blog post on July 14th titled "Helicopter Money -- The Biggest Fed Power Grab Yet." Outraged at the suggestion by Loretta Mester of the Cleveland Fed (whom he calls "clueless") that helicopter money would be the "next step" if the Fed wanted to be more accommodative, Stockman said:

This is beyond the pale because "helicopter money" isn't some kind of new wrinkle in monetary policy, at all. It's an old as the hills rationalization for monetization of the public debt -- that is, purchase of government bonds with central bank credit conjured from thin air.

Stockman, however, may be clueless as to where the US dollar comes from. Today, it is all created out of thin air; and most of it is created by private banks when they make loans. Who would we rather have creating the national money supply -- a transparent and accountable public entity charged with serving the public interest, or a private corporation solely intent on making profits for its shareholders and executives? We've seen the results of the private system: fraud, corruption, speculative bubbles, booms and busts.

Adair Turner, former chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority, is a cautious advocate of helicopter money. He observes:

We have been left with so much debt we can't just grow our way out of it -- we should consider a radical option.

Not that allowing the government to issue money is so radical. It was the innovative system of Benjamin Franklin and the American colonists. Paper scrip represented the government's IOU for goods and services received. The debt did not have to be repaid in some other currency. The government's IOU was money. The US dollar is a government IOU backed by the "full faith and credit of the United States."

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to "coin money [and] regulate the value thereof." Having the power to regulate the value of its coins, Congress could legally issue trillion dollar coins to pay its debts if it chose. As Congressman Wright Patman noted in 1941:

The Constitution of the United States does not give the banks the power to create money. The Constitution says that Congress shall have the power to create money, but now, under our system, we will sell bonds to commercial banks and obtain credit from those banks. I believe the time will come when people [will] actually blame you and me and everyone else connected with this Congress for sitting idly by and permitting such an idiotic system to continue.

Beating the Banks at Their Own Game

Issuing "zero-coupon non-marketable perpetual bonds with no maturity date" is obviously sleight of hand, a convoluted way of letting the government issue the money it needs in order to do what governments are expected to do. But it is a necessary charade in a system in which the power to create money has been hijacked from governments by a private banking monopoly engaged in its own sleight of hand, euphemistically called "fractional reserve lending." The modern banking model is a magician's trick in which banks lend money only a fraction of which they actually have, effectively counterfeiting the rest as deposits on their books when they make loans.

Governments today are blocked from exercising their sovereign power to issue the national money supply by misguided legislation designed to avoid hyperinflation. Legislators steeped in flawed monetarist theory are more comfortable borrowing from banks that create the money on their books than creating it themselves. To satisfy these misinformed legislators and the bank lobbyists holding them in thrall, governments must borrow before they spend; but taxpayers balk at the growing debt and interest burden this borrowing entails. By borrowing from its own central bank with "non-marketable perpetual bonds with no maturity date," the government can satisfy the demands of all parties.

Critics may disapprove of the helicopter money option, but the market evidently approves. Japanese shares shot up for four consecutive days after Abe announced his new fiscal stimulus program, in the strongest rally since February. As noted in a July 11th ZeroHedge editorial, Japan "has given the world a glimpse of not only how 'helicopter money' will look, but also the market's enthusiastic response, which needless to say is music to the ears of central bankers everywhere." If the Japanese trial balloon is successful, many more such experiments can be expected globally.

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News Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
The No Criticism Zone http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/36990-the-no-criticism-zone http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/36990-the-no-criticism-zone

©Universal Uclick

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Art Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
ALEC 2016 Agenda Boosts Charters, Coal and Other Corporate Funders http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36989-alec-2016-agenda-boosts-charters-coal-and-other-corporate-funders http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36989-alec-2016-agenda-boosts-charters-coal-and-other-corporate-funders

ALEC has long relied on funding from its coal and oil industry members. This year it's proposing yet another resolution opposing the Clean Power Plan.ALEC has long relied on funding from its coal and oil industry members. This year it's proposing yet another resolution opposing the Clean Power Plan. (Photo: Rich / Flickr)

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The American Legislative Exchange Council will push bills to protect failing charter schools, silence political speech, and obstruct environmental protections in the ALEC 2016 agenda introduced at its annual meeting in Indianapolis this week.

ALEC faces renewed public attention as it gears up for the annual meeting, where corporate lobbyists sit side-by-side with state legislators in luxury hotels to vote as equals on "model bills" that then get pushed to become law in states across the country.

As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, Donald Trump chose an ALEC ally, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, as his running mate, while his party's 2016 platform was clearly stamped in the Koch-fueled ALEC mold.

Pence Pushed ALEC Agenda in the Hoosier State

As Governor, Pence appointed an ALEC staffer to his cabinet, and pushed parts of the ALEC agenda into law, such as anti-worker bills like repealing the prevailing wage and privatizing public schools in various ways. He even sent a letter to state legislators urging them to join ALEC, which is widely described as a corporate bill mill. ALEC is funded by Koch Industries, Peabody Energy, huge global tobacco and drug companies, and other corporations that pay a premium to access ALEC lawmakers.

Conveniently for him, this year's meeting will be held in the snazzy J.W. Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Pence is scheduled to deliver a keynote address at lunch on Wednesday, then is slated to speak at an evening reception on school "reform" jointly hosted by the Center for Education Reform (CER) and the Jack Kemp Foundation (JKF).

If Pence had time to stay for a few task force meetings, here are some of the new "model bills" he would find voted on behind closed doors by ALEC legislators alongside corporate lobbyists and representatives of special interest groups that are part of the State Policy Network (SPN).

Second Chances for Failing Charter Schools

The for-profit education companies that help fund ALEC, like K12, Inc., have a track record of poor results that tends to result in a high rate of school closures. K12, which was founded in part by junk bond fraudster felon Michael Milken, has a seat and a vote on ALEC's corporate board.

Two new bills being considered by what ALEC now dubs its "Education and Workforce Development Task Force" could help poorly performing charters stay open without having to improve.

Under the Assessment Choice Act, instead of using a uniform assessment for students statewide, charters' authorizers would take their pick from a "menu" of tests, unlike traditional public schools.

If propping up test scores isn't enough to save a charter from closure, the "Student and Family Fair Notice and Impact Statement Act" promises to add new hurdles. Before closing or restructuring a charter school, this act would not just require that families be notified. It would also create a public hearing process in which parents, teachers, and "experts" could give testimony about the school, and the charter board would be allowed to suggest a response plan.

In case it wasn't obvious that the bill is meant to keep the charter in operation, the drafter of that model bill added:

"[drafting note: it should be clear the school can present an alternative for supporters of the school to rally around.]"

School privatization proponents have slowly been dropping the pretense that the "school choice" movement is about helping underprivileged children. At a workshop titled "The Path to Universal Choice: From Theory to Passage to Implementation," lawmakers will be schooled on how to "open up more options to the middle class."

ALEC Aims to Silence Political Speech With Anti-Divestment Bill

While ALEC purports to support "limited government," its bills show that is code for unlimited corporate power, even from democratic control by stockholders.

For example, ALEC bills have leveraged right-wing ALEC control of state legislatures to try to stifle political movements that are winning the battle for public opinion, as CMD has previously reported in its coverage of ALEC's preemption strategy, among other areas.

This ALEC meeting includes a proposal opposing the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions Movement (BDS), which has been growing in strength, especially on college campuses.

The BDS Movement is an international campaign to use economic pressure to push the state of Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories and to allow Palestinian refugees the right of return to their homes.

While a healthy public debate is ongoing about the pros and cons of BDS, ALEC's proposal as described doesn't merely express opposition to the movement. Instead, it apparently aims to silence political speech and activity:

"The goal of the resulting model policy will be to create disincentives to engaging in (and prohibit to the extent possible) secondary boycott activities."

ALEC host Indiana and a handful of other states have passed similar anti-boycott bills, which the American Civil Liberties Union has criticized as unconstitutional limits on speech.

This is all par for the course for ALEC, which opposed anti-Apartheid sanctions, as CMD's Nick Surgey uncovered with Calvin Sloan. ALEC has long opposed citizen stockholder movements to urge socially responsible investing.

Still Attacking Public Sector Unions After Losing in the Supreme Court

Earlier this year, a split U.S. Supreme Court left standing a lower court's decision to uphold public sector union fees in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. As CMD documented, ALEC sibling group SPN organized anti-union protests at the Court before the case was decided.

Undaunted, ALEC's "Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development" Task Force is presenting a combined version of its long-standing "Right to Work" Act and Public Employee Choice Act. The new version has been re-branded the "Friedrichs Public Employee Freedom Act" to try to get more mileage from the case. Its namesake Rebecca Friedrichs is a photogenic school teacher and rightwing activist who tried to pave the way for free-riders to get out of union dues. Friedrichs herself is an invited speaker at the conference.

To advance this agenda, the task force meeting will hear just from proponents at a presentation titled, "A State Strategy to Protect Public Employees' Free Speech Rights in the Wake of Friedrichs v. California Teachers' Association." The presentation will likely unfold the next steps of ALEC's Koch-y anti-union strategy.

Leaning Hard on Attorneys General to Block Climate Change and Environmental Protections

ALEC has long relied on funding from its coal and oil industry members. It is also a key cog in the climate science denial machine.

This year its "Energy, Environment, and Agriculture" Task Force is proposing yet another resolution opposing the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP takes important steps toward reducing carbon pollution from coal power plants that are contributing to climate changes underway.

Another proposed resolution attacks a new EPA rule to protect American streams -- and along with them American families and wildlife -- from dangerous pollution caused by surface coal mining.

Mimicking ALEC's "guerilla warfare" strategy against the CPP, the resolution calls on state attorneys general to actively oppose the rule. ALEC, whose focus has long been legislators, has been increasingly coordinating with top law enforcement officers to thwart an array of legislation, including the CPP and the Affordable Care Act.

As Long as ALEC Is Amending the Constitution. . .

As CMD has previously detailed, one of ALEC's top priorities in recent years has been calling to amend the U.S. Constitution with a balanced budget requirement. Such an amendment would straitjacket the federal government's ability to respond to crises, opportunities, and economic downturns.

Now that the movement may be getting close to the numbers needed to call a constitutional convention under Article V. One estimate counted 28 states of the required 34 having passed resolutions. It looks like ALEC's "Federalism and International Relations" Task Force is piling on to make the most of the opportunity.

Two proposed "model bills" aim to guarantee technicalities don't derail the effort.

The "Article V Records Transparency Act" would enlist the U.S. Archivist to keep track of convention calls. Another model bill conveniently combines and unifies three of ALEC's previous Article V policies.

presentation on a "Congressional Term Limits Amendment" underscores the potential dangers of the Article V strategy that some have expressed. That's because it appears that any change could be made to the Constitution during a convention (just as the entire Articles of Confederation were scrapped at the last Constitutional Convention in 1787).

It's clear that some proponents see it as an opportunity to tack on a wishlist of right-wing policies without oversight or accountability, based on pre-selecting who gets a vote at such a convention.

An Updated ALEC Agenda for Big Pharma and "Home Sharing"

As usual, ALEC's agenda also includes plenty of bills that aid the corporate interests that bankroll ALEC.

Drug companies are a perennial favorite at ALEC. Representatives of Pfizer and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America trade group have seats and votes on sit on ALEC's private sector board. A Takeda lobbyist is the "private sector" chair of the "Health and Human Services" Task Force.

The "Federalism and International Relations" Task Force is considering a resolution against Canada's "Promise Doctrine," which requires that a patent applicant actually demonstrate the utility of an invention before being awarded a patent.

ALEC's "Communications and Technology" and "Tax and Fiscal Policy" Task Forces are pulling out the preemption playbook for "home-sharing" operations like Airbnb and HomeAway. HomeAway is a member of the trade association NetChoice, which has a seat and a vote on ALEC's private sector board.

As the hotel alternatives cut into tight housing markets, cities like San Francisco and Phoenix have been experimenting with local rules to ensure the businesses comply with safety and tax rules, and to keep big investors from tying up residential housing.

The proposed Model Act Relating to Online Lodging MarketplacesUniform Standard for Lodging Taxes Act, and Resolution in Favor of Tangible Personal Property Tax Repeal would block those local measures.

Corporate Lobbyists Get a Vote on "Tort Reform" Bills

The "Civil Justice" Task Force continues to focus on helping corporations escape liability and the costs of worker injuries. Meeting behind closed doors, the task force includes some of the defense lawyers who represent corporations whose products or practices injure Americans, who will vote as equals with state legislators on bills.

On the docket this meeting is an amendment to ALEC's Statement of Principles on Workers' Compensation Reform. The task force will also hear a presentation on "Sports Industry Liability: Helmets, Concussions and Medical Duties."

Uncoincidentally, the National Athletic Trainers Association will also be welcomed as a new member of the "Health and Human Services" Task Force at the Indianapolis meeting.

Legislators rubbing elbows with so-called "tort reform" lobbyists will be told about "Lawsuits in the Age of Big Data: Bringing Discovery Reform to the States." A presentation titled "The Threat of Groupthink in Jury Decision-Making" will teach them about perceived problems with the democratic check on the criminal justice process, the right to a trial by jury.

ALEC's Local Offshoot ACCE: Defer Local Decisions to the States

ALEC's project, the American City County Exchange, is ostensibly meant to be a municipal version of ALEC.

ALEC reliably leans on rhetoric about local control in its opposition to federal policies. But ACCE's "model bills" are strangely bifurcated between seizing and abandoning local power.

On the one hand, ACCE's Ordinance for Local Coordination on Federal Regulations demands local control over federal land-use and environmental policies. A workshop on "24- hour building permits" looks poised to justify limiting democratically adopted rules governing building codes, purportedly in order to encourage "economic growth." Meanwhile, the workshop "Right to Work or Not, Taxpayers Come First" tries on new rhetoric to peddle limits on collective bargaining for local government workers.

Yet ACCE just as often urges municipalities to turn decision-making power over to the states. This is likely because cities are at the forefront of progressive policy-making, as with the incredibly popular efforts to raise the minimum wage and expand access to earned sick days. Indeed, as CMD documented, most CEOs support those measures by overwhelming majorities, even though business lobbies routinely claim companies oppose such legislation.

ACCE's Ordinance to Repeal Personal Property Tax Collection would interfere with cities like San Francisco, which is experimenting with ways to tax property in short-term HomeAway-type rentals similarly to hotels.

ACCE's Local Resolution in Support of State Minimum Wage Law even urges city officials to claim that the "do not have the authority" to set minimum wages that are appropriate to the conditions in the cities they were elected to represent.

Peddling Harmful Myths, From Guns to Climate

Such efforts are part of ALEC's larger pre-emption playbook, which dates back to its efforts to help the tobacco companies funding it and the gun industry trade groups fueling it thwart progressive city policies to address the deadly harms of inherently dangerous cigarettes and guns.

Four years ago, CMD connected the dots between the Koch-backed ALEC and the Stand Your Ground legislation that initially prevented the arrest of George Zimmerman -- and ultimately prevented his conviction -- for killing Trayvon Martin. Under public scrutiny, ALEC announced it was parting ways with the NRA.

ALEC is hosting another shooting range event this Saturday.

Like ALEC, Mike Pence has cast his lot with industry, peddling deceptive claims like smoking doesn't cause cancer and opposing laws to reduce gun violence.

It should come as no surprise that he has also claimed that climate change is "a myth," just as ALEC has preached to its legislators numerous times over the years, as it has been funded by Exxon, Koch, Peabody, and other climate change denial operations.

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News Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Mike Pence Is a Loyal Friend to Polluters http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36988-mike-pence-is-a-loyal-friend-to-polluters http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36988-mike-pence-is-a-loyal-friend-to-polluters

Gov. Mike Pence has benefited from a well-coordinated network of industry front groups, conservative think tanks and law firms bent on blocking the Clean Power Plan.

In 2015, Indiana Governor Mike Pence told President Obama his state would not comply with the Clean Power Plan.In 2015, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told President Obama his state would not comply with the Clean Power Plan. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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In Mike Pence, Donald Trump has picked a running mate who could be relied on to take a chainsaw to President Obama's signature environmental policy.

In 2015 the Indiana governor told Obama in no uncertain terms that his state would not be complying with the Clean Power Plan, which sets targets for reducing power plant emissions in each state. Pence joined a lawsuit that has succeeded in tying up the plan in court.

He and other climate crisis-denying policymakers have benefited from a well-coordinated network of industry front groups, conservative think tanks and law firms bent on blocking the Clean Power Plan. A good chunk of the funding for this cabal comes from some of the country's largest electrical utilities companies.

Where do they get all that extra spending money? It turns out public utilities are champion tax dodgers -- the dodgiest of all U.S. business sectors, in fact.

According to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies, 23 of the 40 publicly held utilities that were profitable in 2015 paid no federal taxes that year. Sixteen of them paid no state income taxes. The most extreme example last year was Southern Company, which reaped $210 million in federal and state tax refunds, despite $3.6 billion in pre-tax income.

This Georgia-based firm, with nine million customers in the southeastern United States, is a fierce Clean Power Plan opponent. In comments to the Environmental Protection Agency, the firm warned the plan would result in "a complete deconstruction of the nation's electric sector."

Southern officials also did their best to make their customers' hair stand on end by claiming the CPP would put $35 billion in upward pressure on their rates over the next 15 years. By contrast, the administration forecasts $80 per year in average savings per household through increased efficiency.

Southern CEO Tom Fanning pocketed $11.8 million in compensation last year and steered a good share of the rest of the proceeds from tax-dodging into blocking the Clean Power Plan through various industry groups, such as the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. That outfit is in turn a member of the Utility Air Regulatory Group, a petitioner along with Pence's state of Indiana in the lawsuit to overturn the Clean Power Plan. The company is also a major Capitol Hill presence in its own right, having spent more than $25 million in federal lobbying in 2013-2014.

Pence and his utility industry partners against the CPP say they're looking out for the public interest. They claim the EPA's rules will be expensive for ratepayers and cost jobs. And yet if they were truly interested in what's best for ordinary Americans, they would be investing much more in energy efficiency, the cheapest and fastest route to reducing carbon emissions.

Utilities are required by law to invest in "demand-side" energy efficiency at the consumer end, but the patchwork of state and federal programs have not gone nearly far enough to mitigate climate change and move the country toward a clean energy future.

Most of these programs also require home and building owners to invest significant upfront capital and so poor households often cannot participate. And since such programs potentially reduce utilities' profits by reducing energy demand, the firms have had little incentive to do more.

It would make far more sense to plug the loopholes that have allowed these highly profitable utilities get away without paying their fair share of taxes. Then invest the revenue in projects that would benefit everyday Americans, especially low-income and communities of color. If Southern had paid the full statutory federal and state tax rates last year, for example, they would've contributed nearly $1.5 billion to public coffers -- enough to fund 9,000 good jobs for people in retrofitting homes or building wind turbines.

If all 40 profitable utilities had paid their fair share at the state and federal levels in 2015, they would've paid about of $14 billion in additional revenue. That would've been enough to create 88,000 energy efficiency jobs or weatherize homes for up to three million low-income families.

Of course such sensible plans would have as much chance of happening under a Trump-Pence administration as a snowball's survival in you-know-where. This climate change-denying duo would be too busy butchering environmental protections to bother with tax-dodging utilities.

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News Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400