Author Archive | Partisan

Rewriting the Rules of Presidential Succession

By Norm Ornstein

American politics is deep into the theater of the absurd—but unfortunately, it is a deadly absurdity, like being in a horror funhouse where the creatures leaping out at you have real knives and chainsaws. Americans now have to face at least the possibility, a tangible one, that the election itself was subverted by a hostile foreign power in league with the winning presidential campaign, with implications all the way down the ballot.

What to do if that proves to be the case? It is a question I have been asked a lot; my stock answer begins with, “The Constitution does not have a do-over clause.” But I am now rethinking the response: Maybe it needs a do-over clause. And it does not have to require a constitutional amendment.

From the day after the 9/11 catastrophe, I threw myself into creating a set of safety nets for the constitutional system, ensuring that the United States would have a rapid, orderly, and legitimate set of ways to ensure the continuity of government in the event of a terror attack that could decapitate one or more of its three branches. It started with Congress, and the need to have emergency interim appointments if an attack dropped either or both of its houses below the constitutionally mandated quorum of half the membership to do any business, until reasonable, deliberative elections could be held to fill vacancies.

But the Continuity of Government Commission that Tom Mann and I worked to create also focused on presidential succession. Unlike Congress, this did not require a constitutional amendment, but could be done legislatively. It was clear to us that there were real problems in the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. It was enacted at the urging of President Harry Truman, when, in the dangerous environment just after the war, he …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Can Religious Charities Take the Place of the Welfare State?

By Emma Green

President Trump’s initial budget proposal would end aid for poor families to pay their heating bills, defund after-school programs at public schools, and make fewer grants available to college students. Community block grants that provide disaster relief, aid neighborhoods affected by foreclosure, and help rural communities access water, sewer systems, and safe housing would be eliminated. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, suggested recently that even small amounts of federal funding for programs like Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to house-bound seniors, may not be justified.

With billions of dollars worth of cuts to federal social services likely ahead, the wars of religion have begun. Bible verses about poverty have suddenly become popular on Twitter, with Republicans and Democrats each claiming to better know how Jesus would think about entitlement spending. While conservatives tend to bring religion into public-policy conversations more than liberals, the valence is often switched when it comes to the budget: Liberals eagerly quote the Sermon on the Mount in support of government spending, while conservatives bristle at the suggestion that good Christians would never want cuts.

But it’s more than posturing. If government steps back, religious organizations may need to step up. Much of the infrastructure and money involved in the charitable provision of social services is associated with religion, whether it’s a synagogue’s homeless-sheltering program or a large aid organization such as Catholic Relief Services. People like the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner believe these private services could potentially be expanded even further. While some government programs should be scrapped altogether, he argued, “other programs may well be replaceable by private charity—either dollar-for-dollar, or more likely, they can be done more effectively and efficiently.”

I spoke with roughly a half dozen scholars from a variety …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The DLC Lives: “Third Way” Democrats Are Trying to Push the Party Rightward

The DLC never went away: Through well-funded think tanks like Third Way, it continues to push Democrats to the right.

The DLC never went away: Through well-funded think tanks like Third Way, it continues to push Democrats to the right. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

The Democratic Leadership Council has been dead for years, but not its pro-Wall Street, pro-corporate mission, which has lived on in groups like the Third Way. Now armed with millions of dollars, they are increasing their public profile and aggressively advancing the “New Democrat” agenda to push the party to the right. Can progressives stop them?

The DLC never went away: Through well-funded think tanks like Third Way, it continues to push Democrats to the right.The DLC never went away: Through well-funded think tanks like Third Way, it continues to push Democrats to the right. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

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Stringer Bell had a problem. On HBO’s show “The Wire,” the rather learned kingpin was concerned that the drugs his gang sold on the streets of West Baltimore were too weak, which jeopardized their control of the streets. So, in a memorable scene, Bell, who was taking economics courses at a community college, asked his instructor, “What are the options if you have an inferior product in an aggressive marketplace?” The instructor offered him some prescient advice, mentioning how WorldCom (now MCI Inc.) once faced a similar problem.

“The company was linked to one of the largest fraud cases in history,” he said. “So, they decided to change the name.”

Bell adopted the strategy. West Baltimore was soon flooded with the same inferior product, but …read more

Via:: Truthout



Hospitals Are Throwing Out Perfectly Usable Medical Supplies

If you’ve spent much time in a hospital, you’ve probably noticed piles of medical supplies everywhere you look. But you might be surprised by the hidden waste behind the stacks of butterfly needles, rolls of gauze and myriad other tools that make a hospital tick.

A ProPublica investigation has revealed shockingly profligate waste in the U.S. health care industry, and that’s not good for anyone — except the hospitals in developing nations that receive discarded medical supplies from charities that attempt to mitigate the waste.

There are many reasons why hospitals throw out perfectly usable supplies, like single-use items that haven’t expired yet or used medical equipment that’s in good working condition, if a little old.

One is the very real desire to adhere to the law and hospital policy – regulations that aim to limit the spread of infection, for example. Thus, equipment that might be contaminated is discarded — even if it’s not, or if it could be cleaned to address the concern. Likewise, when patient rooms are cleared, the supplies left in the room are just tossed, rather than being restocked. For people in the ICU who may have rooms littered with packages of gauze, tubing, needles, sterile saline and other supplies, that can add up very quickly.

In surgery, strict infection protocols also tend to facilitate waste as well. While the desire to keep surgical tools scrupulously sterile is well-founded — patients have better outcomes when surgeons use sterile equipment — some hospitals go a little overboard. Once something has been brought into the operating room, it may be discarded after a procedure, even if it wasn’t used. And that’s a major problem when expensive disposable surgical instruments are involved.

Historically, all of these materials went straight into the garbage, posing some environmental and health …read more

Via:: Truthout



Despair in Europe's Camps

One year after European Union leaders signed a deal with the Turkish government to cut off the wave of desperate refugees seeking to reach Europe’s shores, the policy has caused even more death and suffering.

As of March 14, nearly 20,000 refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe this year after making the desperate trip across the Mediterranean Sea, according to the latest figures from the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project. That’s a sharp drop compared to the same period last year, when more than 152,700 people entered Europe.

Yet the number of migrant and refugee deaths has actually risen — as a direct consequence of EU governments clamping down on their borders, forcing refugees into ever-more-dangerous crossings. As of March 14, some 525 had been killed or gone missing this year, while 482 were reported killed or missing in the first 73 days of 2016.

Under last year’s deal, the repressive regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was given billions in aid, ostensibly for the refugees, and promised faster progress in Turkey’s negotiations to join the EU. In exchange, Turkey agreed to take in undocumented refugees arriving in Greece. For each refugee sent to Turkey, the EU promised to take in a refugee directly from Turkey’s camps at some point in the future.

As a result, just under a thousand refugees have been deported to Turkey from Greece. But thousands more already in Greece have been stranded in a kind of legal limbo resulting from EU leaders’ unwillingness to let them in — stuck in abysmal conditions in what amounts to little more than prison camps.

“Many of the camps are overcrowded and there are frequent clashes, with those inside tired of the long wait for asylum papers and fearful of being returned to Turkey,” <a class="colorbox" rel="nofollow" href="" …read more

Via:: Truthout



Trump's EPA Cuts: No One Will Protect Us

President Donald Trump signs an executive order aimed at rolling back one of former President Barack Obama's major environmental regulations to protect American waterways, in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, Feb. 28, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

President Donald Trump signs an executive order aimed at rolling back one of former President Barack Obama’s major environmental regulations to protect American waterways, in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, February 28, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

President Donald Trump’s deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency terrify me. They will gut the agency, removing protections for American families and our children.

As I travel from one polluted community to the next, women weep as they hold their children, and explain how chemicals in their air, water or land have made their families sick.

Local leaders describe how their city or town won’t help them, because it’s a company town, and no one will hold the polluter responsible. They go on to say their state agency isn’t much better. Their only recourse is the federal EPA.

The EPA was designed to provide a safety net for these communities. But it has been hard enough for EPA to answer demand for their services across the nation, and to stretch their existing budgets. Clearly, Trump’s administration intends to take away this safety net, and a means for checks and balances.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that living in a toxic environment, with little hope of getting out, is a family’s worst nightmare. In 1978, I lived with my two small children at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, NY, where 20,000 tons of toxic chemical wastes were buried.

My daughter had a rare blood disease, and my son suffered from many medical problems including with his liver, asthma and epilepsy. Our house was worthless, and our American dream taken away through no fault of our own. Fifty-six percent of our neighborhood children were born with birth defects.

Niagara Falls was a …read more

Via:: Truthout



How Chicago Became the First City to Make Reparations to Victims of Police Violence

Victims of alleged torture by Chicago Police stand during a City Council meeting at City Hall in Chicago, May 6, 2015. The City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations package for victims of police torture during the 1970s and '80s under the watch of a notorious police commander, Jon Burge. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The New York Times)

With the election of Donald Trump, it seems unlikely that reparations will move forward at a national scale anytime soon. But Chicago’s ordinance provides a model for creating reparations at the local level, even in the face of daunting circumstances.

Victims of alleged torture by Chicago Police stand during a City Council meeting at City Hall in Chicago, May 6, 2015. The City Council approved a $5.5 million reparations package for victims of police torture during the 1970s and ’80s under the watch of a notorious police commander, Jon Burge. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The New York Times)

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Somewhere between his 12th and 13th hour inside a Chicago Police Department interrogation room, Lindsey Smith decided to confess to a murder he didn’t commit. Multiple officers had pistol-whipped, stomped on, and beaten him, again and again. Convinced he would not otherwise live through the ordeal, Smith signed a false confession for the attempted murder of a 12-year-old White boy. At 17, Smith too was a boy. But with one major difference: He was Black.

Tried as an adult and convicted, Smith took a plea deal and served nearly five years in prison.

He was among the first of at least 120 young, primarily Black men whom Chicago police officers would torture into false confessions. Yet while many who suffer at the hands of the police never get justice, Smith’s story ended differently. More than 40 years later, following the passage of historic reparations legislation, he became one of the first Black people in America to be granted reparations for racial violence.

After receiving parole, Smith moved out of …read more

Via:: Truthout



The Power of Ordinary People Facing Totalitarianism

In the weeks since the election of President Donald J. Trump, sales of George Orwell’s “1984” have skyrocketed. But so have those of a lesser-known title, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” by a German Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt.

“The Origins of Totalitarianism” discusses the rise of the totalitarian movements of Nazism and Stalinism to power in the 20th century. Arendt explained that such movements depended on the unconditional loyalty of the masses of “slumbering majorities,” who felt dissatisfied and abandoned by a system they perceived to be “fraudulent” and corrupt. These masses sprang to the support of a leader who made them feel they had a place in the world by belonging to a movement.

I am a scholar of political theory and have written books and scholarly essays on Arendt’s work. Published more than 50 years ago, Arendt’s insights into the development of totalitarianism seem especially relevant to discussions of similar threats to American democracy today.

Who Was Hannah Arendt?

Arendt was born in Hanover, Germany in 1906 into a secular Jewish household. She began studying the classics and Christian theology, before turning to philosophy. Subsequent developments made her turn her attention to her Jewish identity and political responses to it.

It began in the mid-1920s, when the nascent Nazi Party started spreading its anti-Semitic ideology at mass rallies. Following the arson attack on the Reichstag (the German Parliament), on Feb. 27, 1933, the Nazis blamed the Communists for plotting against the German government. A day later, the German president declared a state of emergency. The regime, in short order, deprived citizens of basic rights and subjected them to preventive detention. After Nazi parliamentary victories a week later, the Nazis consolidated power, passing legislation …read more

Via:: Truthout



Obamacare Isn’t Out of the Woods Yet

By Vann R. Newkirk II

At least for the moment, the American Health Care Act is dead.

After two weeks of last-minute changes, Congressional Budget Office estimates, and an escalating tripartite skirmish between two wings of the Republican Party and the Trump White House, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced late Friday afternoon that a floor vote on the GOP’s Obamacare replacement would be canceled and the legislation pulled. Facing a 17 percent national approval rating for the bill and loss of support from both the conservative Freedom Caucus and moderate Republicans, Trump and congressional lawmakers appear willing to walk away from health care for the moment. It’s a reprieve, at the very least, for Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act’s supporters are celebrating, and it’s not hard to see why. The strategy of forcing Republicans to choose between keeping their repeal promises and keeping the most popular parts of the law looks like Sun Tzu wrote it at this point. For now, the projected consequences of the AHCA won’t come to pass: 24 million people won’t lose insurance coverage, premiums won’t quintuple for low-income near-elderly people, and Medicaid funding for states won’t be cut over the next decade. But even if the current congressional battle over repeal-and-replace is over—or temporarily postponed—Republicans still have plenty of tools at their disposal to dismantle key pieces of Obamacare.

The GOP backup plan, according to President Trump, has always been to “let [Obamacare] be a disaster,” and blame Democrats for its failings while moving on to other elements of the Republican policy agenda. Ryan seemed to agree on Friday, although not in as cynical terms, saying during a press conference that “the worst is yet to come with Obamacare.” He warned of its imminent collapse via a “death spiral.” There is, as of yet, no evidence that such …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Congress Is Missing in Action as Trump Escalates War in Syria Amid Russia Probe

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Donald Trump is escalating US military operations in Syria just as Russia begins fighting in the region as well. However, the Democrats’ recent efforts to paint Trump as Moscow’s puppet — while allowing the president to ramp up attacks abroad — may have unintended consequences.

President Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 24, 2017. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

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As a House committee held the first congressional hearing on the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Russia this week, Republicans loyal to Trump tried to shift the focus to recent leaks surrounding it, as well as efforts to gather intelligence on Trump’s transition team under the outgoing administration. Other conservatives are distancing themselves from Trump, perhaps in case FBI Director James Comey’s investigation bares fruit. Democrats, meanwhile, took advantage of a fresh opportunity to place Trump as close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the headlines as possible.

At the same time, in northern Syria, US warplanes and artillery units launched strikes against the Islamic State to cover for helicopters ferrying Syrian fighters and their US military advisors behind enemy lines. The operation has set the stage for a long and presumably bloody siege of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital. At least 33 people were killed when an airstrike by the US-lead coalition hit a school where civilians were hiding from the fighting, according to The Guardian. The number of US troops in Syria as grown from a couple hundred to at least …read more

Via:: Truthout


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