The Death of Democracy Looks Nearer Than Ever

Human Rights My Grandparents Lived Through the Nakba. Now It’s Happening Again. Economy & Labor COVID Has Catalyzed a Wave of Tenant Organizing That Was Long Overdue Human Rights Israeli Bombs Destroy Gaza Media Center, Take Out AP, Al Jazeera and Others Immigration Trump Officials Used Secret Terrorism Unit to Question Lawyers at Border Politics & Elections Pharma-Backed Dark Money Group Attacks House Democrats’ Lower Drug Pricing Plan Politics & Elections The Death of Democracy Looks Nearer Than Ever Liz Cheney is not on my short list of politicians I admire or wish to see in Congress. But she has done the right thing in calling out the “big lie” and promising to do all she can to keep Donald Trump away from the White House, literally or in terms of his influence over a terribly broken party. She is a canary in the coal mine. Would that others had the courage to follow suit. Most sentient beings on the planet breathed a huge sigh of relief last November when Joe Biden won the presidential election. We were even happier when he and his administration immediately began acting robustly on myriad issues. First came the well-chosen appointments, the flurry of executive orders reversing Trump’s perversities, then the big bills aimed at health care, infrastructure, economic recovery, climate change, income inequality, childcare and more — all of which made Republicans in Congress and their QAnon conspiracists cringe — and jump into action. A majority of states immediately flew into action to bring back Jim Crow with hideous voting rights restrictions. Protesters began to be arrested. Gun violence and hate crimes grew by startling percentages while cops kept killing Black people. Arizona Republicans decided to hold yet another recount of the election results there, barring journalists from the hangar where counters reportedly tried to spot bamboo in the ballots. (Proof, if we needed it, that the party has gone crazy.) Republicans in Congress began their urgent campaign, articulated by Mitch McConnell, to stop any legislation proposed by the White House or Democrats in the House of Representatives. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley and other deranged GOP members went on various rants grounded in lies and nonsense. Rand Paul accosted public health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, accusing him of funding dangerous research in China (more proof of crazy). Vaccine conspiracies and anti-masking activists got really crazy. All of this occurred after Jan. 6, when the unimaginable happened and an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol sent America a clear message: This country is not out of danger. The fact is, the real and growing possibility of living through the destruction of American democracy is not going away. It is growing. Donald Trump is now viewed as the head of the Republican Party as he holds the feet of elected officials to the fire with his fierce, alarming grip on their futures. A significant number of regular Republicans continue to embrace the lies, mantras and inconceivable theories spewed out daily by Fox News. Insurrectionists crawl out from under their rocks in droves. The Supreme Court is now a quasi-political body with a 6-3 conservative majority. All this is terrifying in its implications. Like many others, I grow more and more anxious by the day — so much so that I actually inquired about getting a British passport, which my husband and children hold. I know that what happened in countries like Turkey, Egypt, Poland, Hungary and others can happen here. We are not immune from autocrats and dictatorship and we are not protected by our Constitution if it no longer holds meaning for those in power. Our future is riding on the midterm elections next year, and the 2024 presidential election. If you think I am needlessly hyperventilating, consider this: In 1923 Hitler mounted a failed coup. When he failed, his effort was treated leniently. A decade later he was Germany’s dictator. In 2021 Donald Trump inspired a failed coup. It too has been treated leniently by those who say we “need to move on.” Will he, or his appointed alter ego, be our dictator in less than a decade? Ece Temelkuran, a noted Turkish journalist, wrote a book in 2019 in which she explains how President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to rule that country. The book is called How to Lose a Country: The Seven Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship. In the first chapter she writes, “Watching a disaster occur has a sedating effect. As our sense of helplessness grows along with the calamity, [we begin to feel that] there is no longer anything you can do.… global news channels jump in [for] the denouement. It has been a long and exhausting [time], unbearably painful. It began with a populist coming to town.… A bleak dawn breaks.” She goes on to draw chilling comparisons between the fate of Turkey and what’s happening in the U.S. and elsewhere: “It doesn’t matter if Trump or Erdogan or [the U.K.’s] Nigel Farage is brought down. Millions of people are fired up by their message and will be ready to act upon the orders of a similar figure.… These minions will find you, even in your own personal space, armed with their own set of values and ready to hunt down anyone who doesn’t resemble themselves.” Temelkuran points out that this is not something imposed top down or imported from the Kremlin. It also arises from the grassroots. She says wisely, “It is time to recognize that what is occurring affects us all.” It is time, indeed, for America to realize what is occurring — and that it will affect us all. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Warmonger Rahm Emanuel Is an Abysmal Choice for US Ambassador

Remember the song about the cat? Well, the cat came back the very next day / Oh, the cat came back, they thought he was a goner but the cat came back / He just couldn’t stay away… Well, it won’t be official for a few weeks, but the word landed yesterday: Rahm Emanuel, among the most despised individuals within and without Democratic Party politics, will be named U.S. ambassador to Japan. The cat came back, and has apparently landed a key assignment in the foreign service.

Trump’s “Big Lie” Could Hurt Republicans in 2022, GOP Pollster Says

A veteran pollster for Republican candidates and officials over the past several decades has a warning for his party: Pushing former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” about election fraud may cause a GOP midterm election loss. Midterm elections usually go badly for the political party associated with the president currently in office. Only two presidents since Franklin Roosevelt have seen gains in Congress for their own political party in a midterm race after winning a presidential election: Bill Clinton in 1998 and George W. Bush in 2002.

Trump Loyalist Who Attacked the Capitol Blames Fox News

A man who took part in the Capitol breach on January 6 said this week that his actions weren’t 100 percent his fault. Rather, he said, was influenced into being a part of the violence that day by something his lawyer called “Foxmania,” which resulted in him believing false claims about election fraud in the 2020 election. Anthony Antonio surrendered to police in April and was charged with five federal crimes related to the January attack, including violent entry and disorderly conduct while in the Capitol, and impeding law enforcement. One video of Antonio’s actions during the day shows him shouting at officers, telling them, “You want war? We got war. 1776 all over again.”

Biden’s U-Turn on Refugees Aligns With Voter Support for Pro-Immigrant Policies

Prisons & Policing Jailers Tortured and Murdered Marvin Scott III, Family Says After Viewing Video Politics & Elections A New Wave of Jim Crow Laws Is Here. Here’s What You Need to Know. Politics & Elections Facebook Board Announces Trump Remains Banned. Trump Starts His Own “Platform.” Immigration Biden’s U-Turn on Refugees Aligns With Voter Support for Pro-Immigrant Policies Economy & Labor Amazon Is Dictating Personal Hygiene, Nail Length of Contract Drivers Politics & Elections Judge Says DOJ Memo on Barr’s Decision Not to Charge Trump Must Be Released Earlier this week, President Biden, under pressure from his own voter base, executed what might end up being the most consequential political U-turn of his presidency. Having disappointed refugee rights advocates and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party a few weeks ago by adhering to Trump’s limit of 15,000 refugee admissions this fiscal year, on Monday Biden announced he was raising that cap to 62,500. It was the right decision to make, even if it took him nearly three weeks to get there. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how many refugees will actually be admitted in practice. Even as he raised the cap, Biden warned, “The sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year,” due to how badly the system for processing refugees was dismantled and drained of staff under Trump. Nevertheless, successfully pressuring Biden to ditch Trump’s restrictive policy is still a hugely important win for progressives. After Biden opportunistically decided to keep the low cap that he had inherited, an array of luminaries on the left of the political spectrum, as well as decided moderates such as Sen. Dick Durbin, called Biden out for betraying a campaign promise and, more importantly, squandering the trust of refugees who, after years of waiting in camps for the required visas and entry documents, were finally preparing for their journeys to the U.S. This one ought to have been a no-brainer. There never was a morally cogent reason to eviscerate the refugee resettlement program in the way that Trump and his team did. It was always about nativism, and, more particularly, about raw Islamophobia. It was against Muslim-majority countries such as Syria and Yemen, Somalia and Iran, that Trump turned most of his animus, blocking refugees — many of whom are fleeing particularly brutal and long-lasting civil conflicts — from those locales, not only via low caps on the total numbers admitted, but also via executive orders specifically denying entry to people from those individual countries. Trump used Congress member Ilhan Omar, who arrived in the U.S. from Somalia as a child refugee, as a foil in speech after speech, attacking her in the most incendiary of language, urging his people to turn against refugee-welcoming cities such as Minneapolis, and encouraging his audiences to chant “send her back” after he had riled them up against her. It remains to be seen how many refugees will actually be admitted in practice. Biden has consistently opposed Trump’s policies on refugees and on the Muslim travel ban. In fact, when candidate Trump first unveiled, in a short speech to his doting followers in late 2015, his desire to ban Muslims from entering the country “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” and followed up early in the new year with a TV ad touting this vile plan, Biden said Trump’s language was “dangerous.” Meanwhile the White House, at which Biden was at the time the vice president, released a statement asserting that Trump’s proposal “disqualified” him from holding high office. On the campaign trail, Biden consistently called the Trump administration out for its evisceration of the U.S.’s refugee resettlement program — between January 2017 and the fall of 2019, the Trump administration admitted fewer refugees than the Obama White House did just in its last year in office. And during the pandemic, refugee admissions all but ground to a halt. Biden promised, as I wrote back in April, to reverse this trend: to rapidly raise the refugee cap to 62,500 this year, and shortly thereafter to 125,000. All of this made his decision last month to uphold Trump’s 15,000 cap on refugee admissions this fiscal year particularly perplexing. It was a decision seemingly made in fear about the political blowback his administration was facing from the right over the high numbers of people seeking to claim asylum on the country’s southern border. Seven in ten Americans say undocumented residents should be offered a viable path to legal residency. While much of the country’s immigration policies can only be legislated by Congress, refugee admissions is one area where the president has extraordinary unilateral power. The president can raise or lower the number of admissions each year simply by issuing a new presidential finding. Thus, when the White House waffled on increasing refugee admissions numbers in mid-April and then suddenly announced that Trump’s cap would be maintained, it left immigrants’ rights advocates scratching their heads in confusion. If Biden’s initial decision to maintain Trump’s camp was a cold political calculation designed to prove the Biden administration’s immigration “toughness” in the face of would-be asylees along the southern border, as appears to have been the case, it made precious little sense even in relation to that cynical goal. For while a large majority of Americans do critique Biden’s handling of the surge of would-be migrants along the border with Mexico, many of their criticisms are about the specific ways in which unaccompanied minors are being treated and about how large numbers of children have been stuck in holding centers for days and weeks on end. It’s important to note that the Pew Research Center survey that showed that two out of three Americans thought the border surge was being handled poorly also showed nearly seven in ten Americans saying undocumented residents should be offered a viable path to legal residency. That nuance holds true for the public’s understanding of refugee admissions as well. One in three Americans tell pollsters that refugee admissions should be a high priority for the new administration, and another 45-55 percent say it should be a moderate priority. And while refugee admissions are remarkably unpopular amongst the GOP base, raising the refugee admissions cap is broadly accepted as being the right thing to do among Democrats given the messy realities of the world at the moment. All of this should have provided ample political cover for Biden to raise the refugee cap last month. Instead, inexplicably, he dropped the ball. Sometimes, it seems, politicians need to be rescued from their own worst impulses. Such was certainly the case with Biden and refugees. Had his decision to adhere to Trump’s nativist cap held, he would have squandered an opportunity to set the U.S. on a better course. Now, however, under fierce pressure from the grassroots, he has pressed the reset button. After four years in which Trump went out of his way to beat up on refugees, to humiliate the vulnerable, and to seek political hay by exploiting their misfortunes, Biden has now — albeit belatedly and only under huge pressure from his own grassroots and from many Democratic members of Congress — taken the first and most basic step toward salvaging the country’s refugee resettlement program. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Marijuana Is Bipartisan, But That Doesn’t Mean Federal Legalization Is A Sure Thing

There was once a time when the only lawmakers supporting the concept of legal marijuana were those long-haired candidates running as independents that didn’t have a chance at winning anyway. But...

Feds Execute Search Warrant at Giuliani’s House, Office, Seize His Cell Phone

Racial Justice Commission Finds Anti-Black Police Violence Constitutes Crimes Against Humanity Politics & Elections Tucker Carlson Is Emblematic of Today’s Republican Party Prisons & Policing Police Convictions Are Not the Goal. Abolitionists Have Bigger Dreams. Environment & Health Prescription Drugs in US Are Quadruple What They Cost Elsewhere, Report Finds Politics & Elections Biden Unveils American Families Plan, Which Would Establish Paid Leave Program Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem Federal agents executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning on properties owned by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who also served as former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer. The warrants are part of an ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors within the Southern District of New York (SDNY), who are looking into whether any laws were broken regarding Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine in 2019. Investigators searched the former Trump confidante’s home and office in New York City. Several electronic devices, including Giuliani’s cellphone, were also seized as part of the investigation. The search of Giuliani’s home and office were described by The New York Times as an “extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president.” Giuliani’s own lawyer, Robert Costello, decried the investigation into his client, suggesting the searches were unnecessary because Giuliani had offered to answer all questions except those he deemed as privileged conversations with Trump. Costello also attempted to use Giuliani’s career as a shield against allegations that he had done anything wrong. “Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States,” Costello argued. Prosecutors are examining whether Giuliani, while he was actively trying to find political “dirt” on then-potential candidate for president Joe Biden, had illegally lobbied for Trump to fire Marie Yovanovitch, who was then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in order to make the efforts at gaining compromising information on Biden easier to accomplish. Yovanovitch was seen as someone who would not go along with the plan for using foreign officials and oligarchs as a means to help Trump win reelection. The efforts at pressuring foreign officials, including Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, into agreeing to help the former U.S. president by launching an investigation into the actions of Biden and his family in that country, was the subject of Trump’s first impeachment, which began in the fall of 2019. Efforts to obtain a warrant to search Giuliani’s properties and belongings began long before Biden took office. Federal agents had sought a warrant several months ago, but were blocked by Trump’s political appointees in the Department of Justice while Trump was still president. Objections were lifted after Biden’s pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, was confirmed by the Senate to his appointment. “Trump’s stooge Bill Barr blocked this very warrant to search for and seize evidence of Clown Rudy’s crimes on behalf of Trump. What a difference a principled and independent Attorney General makes!” tweeted Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe after the search of Giuliani’s properties was reported. Although a warrant to search his home and office makes it clear that the investigation is ongoing, it is not clear at this time whether Giuliani will face any criminal charges stemming from the current inquiry by SDNY. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Elizabeth Warren Unveils $700 Billion Plan to Establish Universal Child Care

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) reintroduced a $700 billion plan on Tuesday to make child care more affordable for families and establish a universal child care program over the next decade. The proposal would create a network of child care centers so that everyone, regardless of income, can have access to quality child care. It would also make child care free for those who make below two times the federal poverty line, and would ensure that no low- and middle-income families have to pay more than 7 percent of their income for public child care. Warren has previously unveiled a version of the plan in 2019, when she was campaigning for president.

Over 80 House Democrats Urge Biden to Lower Medicare Eligibility Age

Politics & Elections Trump-Disrupted Census Hurts Marginalized Communities and Hands New Power to GOP Environment & Health No, Biden’s Not Banning Burgers — But Meat Is a Real Climate Problem Environment & Health The More Biden Expands ACA, the Harder It Will Be for the Right to Cut It Politics & Elections Over 80 House Democrats Urge Biden to Lower Medicare Eligibility Age Economy & Labor Biden to Sign Executive Order Raising Federal Workers’ Wages to $15 an Hour War & Peace Biden Is Reviewing US Policy in North Korea. The Brutal Sanctions Must End. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) organized over 80 House Democrats to sign a letter calling on President Joe Biden to expand Medicare in his administration’s upcoming American Families Plan. The lawmakers are asking Biden to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60 or even 55, require Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and add benefits such as dental, vision and hearing to Medicare coverage. In the letter, the Democrats argue that this would be “a critical investment in health care to bolster the security of our country’s economy and families.” “As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic — the nation’s most acute health care crisis in the last century — now more than ever, we must ensure that families and older adults are equipped with the health coverage they need,” the lawmakers write. The lawmakers say that expanding coverage by lowering the eligibility age for Medicare is vital to the nation’s health and could provide immediate relief to many Americans. They cite a study by Stanford researchers that found that cancer diagnoses spike up at the age of 65 because many adults are suddenly diagnosed once they have health care coverage under Medicare and are able to seek out care. Lowering the eligibility age to 60 would provide an additional 23 million people access to health care, the lawmakers write. Lowering it further to 55 would expand coverage to over 40 million people. The letter writers also cite statistics on Medicare beneficiaries who still struggle with their health because basic versions of Medicare coverage don’t cover vision, hearing or dental. Statistics from 2018 from The Commonwealth Fund cited by the Democrats show that over 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries struggle to eat or hear, likely due to this gap in coverage, and 43 percent hadn’t had an eye exam in the past year despite having trouble seeing. The House Democrats who signed the letter are also urging Biden to address prescription drug prices. The U.S. pays the highest prices of any other country for prescription drugs, as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) pointed out last month when he introduced a bill that would, similarly to the House Democrats’ request, also allow the government to negotiate drug prices. “By prioritizing the inclusion of robust drug-pricing provisions, we can produce enormous federal savings and use it to sustainably expand health coverage, equity, and access,” the lawmakers wrote. They argue that Medicare could save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies. The House Democrats’ letter comes just after Sanders and 16 other Democratic senators also sent a letter to Biden urging him to include similar Medicare expansions. “We have an historic opportunity to make the most significant expansion of Medicare since it was signed into law,” the senators wrote. The push by members of Congress for Medicare expansion comes as other progressive groups are launching a $6 million campaign “ahead of President Biden’s American Jobs and Families Plan address, doubling down on its commitment to passing a permanent, national paid family and medical leave policy,” according to Politico. The push is led by Paid Leave for All, a coalition of groups that are committed to getting paid medical and family leave passed in the United States. The U.S. is one of only a small handful of countries that don’t have guaranteed paid parental leave. Biden’s plan will call for paid family leave but reportedly calls for less than half of what other Democrats call for in funding for the policy. The Biden administration is set to release the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan on Wednesday, which will also contain proposals for making community college free and subsidizing child care costs using funds partially generated through a hike on capital gains taxes for the wealthy. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Biden Eyes Tax Hikes on the Wealthy to Pay for Free Community College

Such programs could help bolster work on the more traditional infrastructure projects as they allow working-class Americans the opportunity to get back into the workplace or advance their own career paths. “Child care is infrastructure. Paid leave is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure. Because if we don’t invest in all three, families can’t get back to work,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) recently tweeted.