Author Archive | Partisan

A Government Shutdown Is Near

By Russell Berman

Congress is on the verge of shutting down the federal government on the anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration.

Hours before a midnight deadline, negotiations between the president and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer had failed to yield a breakthrough in an impasse over immigration. The Senate was sitting on a House-passed bill to keep the government open for nearly another month and give the two parties more time to work out a long-term budget agreement and a deal to protect nearly 700,000 young immigrants at risk for deportation beginning in early March. But Democrats and a handful of Republicans were prepared to block that bill and send the government into a shutdown.

Early in the afternoon, Trump called Schumer to the White House for a 90-minute meeting to resolve the impasse. But it was inconclusive. “We had a long and detailed meeting,” Schumer told reporters upon returning to the Capitol. “We discussed all of the major outstanding issues, we made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.”

Trump put a more positive spin on the talks in a tweet posted shortly after 5 p.m. ET. Still, he announced no agreement.

Democrats had been opposed to a four-week extension passed by the House, however, and by late in the afternoon, the only hope for a last-minute deal appeared to be one that would keep the government open for another few days—but not a full month—to force Democrats, Republicans, and the White House to come together on a broader agreement. Democrats …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Is Money-Laundering the Real Trump Kompromat?

By David A. Graham

So far, the release of transcripts of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson’s interviews with the House Intelligence and Senate Judiciary committees have provided rich detail to obsessives but few major headlines for the average reader. The interviews give some more clarity on how Fusion came to investigate Donald Trump, who was paying the company, and how it gathered information, but they offer much help in assessing the Trump dossier.

Perhaps the most interesting thread is Simpson’s suggestion that the Trump Organization could have been used by Russians to launder money—an arrangement that would have both allowed Kremlin-linked figures to scrub cash and would have created possible blackmail material over the now-president, since the Russian government would be aware that a crime had been committed.

“I’ve felt all along in the Russia investigation that the most important issues were those that had the potential of exerting a continuing influence over the administration and over U.S. policy,” Representative Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told me Friday. “And if the Russians were laundering money through the Trump Organization, the Russians would know it, the president would know it, and that could be very powerful leverage.”

In the interviews, Simpson is cagey about some of his business practices, and professes ignorance about the sources used by Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who assembled the reports in the dossier. (Since lying to the committee would be a crime, it’s reasonable to assume his testimony is not deliberately false.) What’s most interesting is all the threads Simpsons mentions about possible Trump connections he’d reviewed with various Russians, with mobsters, and with others. For the most part, they’re just allegations: If Simpson has proof, it’s not disclosed in the transcripts. More often, they seem like tantalizing possibilities worth exploring …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The American Health-Care System Increases Income Inequality

By Vann R. Newkirk II

For most people, a single doctor’s visit can be a financial obstacle course.

Many patients throughout the year pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in premiums, most often through workplace contributions. Then, at the doctor’s office, they are faced with a deductible, and they may need to pay coinsurance or make a copayment. If they have prescriptions, they’ll likely fork over cash for those, too.

And that’s just for basic primary care for one person. Repeat that process for an entire family; add in any labs, referrals, specialists, emergency-room visits, and surgeries; and the result for even healthy families is dozens and dozens of payments, and often thousands of dollars. This series of expenditures before, during, and after care is euphemistically called having “skin in the game.” But the reality is, the American insurance system is designed to make health care financially unpleasant, often to the point where patients forego necessary care.

A new study in the forthcoming March issue of the American Journal of Public Health sheds light on just how all that “skin in the game” affects the material conditions of patients. The research—by Andrea Christopher at the Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center, David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler at the City University of New York at Hunter College, and Danny McCormick at Harvard Medical School—indicates that household spending on health care is a significant contributor to income inequality in the United States. It also indicates that medical expenses push millions of Americans below the federal poverty line, including 7 million people who make more than 150 percent of the poverty level. Four million of those Americans are pushed into the ranks of extreme poverty.

That health-care costs in the country are expensive—often, prohibitively so—is well known. As Vox’s Sarah Kliff notes, the first reason why …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



‘It’s Our Responsibility to Put More Guardrails Around the President’

By McKay Coppins

Jeff Flake seems intent on finishing his Senate career without any friends left in Washington.

Ever since announcing his impending retirement last year with a blistering speech that called out President Trump’s “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior,” the generally genial Arizona Republican has repeatedly made himself a target of condemnation on both sides of the aisle. His decision to endorse Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama Special Election enraged conservatives who viewed it as a brazen partisan betrayal. His vote for the GOP tax bill, meanwhile, convinced Democrats that he was all talk and no action.

Flake took fire from both sides this week when he took to the Senate floor to denounce Trump’s vilification of the free press and his “sustained attack on the truth.” The speech—delivered hours before the president unveiled his “Fake News Awards”—drew heat from Republicans for its invocation of Joseph Stalin, and derision from Democrats, who accused him of performative moral preening without any substance behind it.

I met with Flake in his Capitol Hill office the day after his speech, and talked to him about what he hoped it would accomplish. He told me he understood why some Republicans would bristle at his Stalin reference, and said he wasn’t comparing the two men’s sins. “Do I think Trump is a dictator? No, he isn’t,” Flake said. But “if the president were to want to go that direction,” he added, it would be crucial that America’s key institutions—like Congress and the press—remain strong. He also told me that some of his most meaningful opposition to Trump’s agenda has taken place behind the scenes.

“I do think that it’s our responsibility to put more guardrails around the president,” he said. “That’s part of what drove this speech.”

Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

McKay Coppins: What made you want …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Recriminalizing Cannabis Is Worse Than 1930s “Reefer Madness”

In the 1930s, parents across the US were panicked. A new documentary, “Reefer Madness,” suggested that evil marijuana dealers lurked in public schools, waiting to entice their children into a life of crime and degeneracy.

The documentary captured the essence of the anti-marijuana campaign started by Harry Anslinger, a government employee eager to make a name for himself after Prohibition ended. Ansligner’s campaign demonized marijuana as a dangerous drug, playing on the racist attitudes of white Americans in the early 20th century and stoking fears of marijuana as an “assassin of youth.”

Over the decades, there’s been a general trend toward greater social acceptance of marijuana by a more educated society, seeing the harm caused by the prohibition of marijuana. But then, on Jan. 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era memorandum suggesting federal agents should let states regulate control of marijuana and focus their efforts on other drugs.

Re-criminalizing marijuana in light of current research findings, including my own research of more than 15 years, makes Sessions’ proposed crackdown on legal marijuana look worse than reefer madness.

Researchers like myself, who regularly talk with people who are actively using hard drugs, know that legal cannabis can actually reduce the harmful effects of other drugs.

Reefer Madness

Re-criminalizing marijuana is a decision that makes little sense unless we consider the motives. History can shed some light here.

Media mogul William Randolph Hearst supported the criminalization of marijuana, in part because Hearst’s paper-producing companies were being replaced by hemp. Likewise, DuPont’s investment in nylon was threatened by hemp products.

Anslinger’s tactics included racist …read more

Via:: Truthout



Empire Files: Abby Martin Meets Ahed Tamimi — Message From a Freedom Fighter

Recently, the struggle for Palestinian human rights gained international attention surrounding a new icon of resistance — 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi. While in the West Bank in late 2016, Abby Martin interviewed Ahed Tamimi about her hardships and aspirations living under occupation, and it becomes clear why her subjugators are trying to silence her voice. Her brother Waad and father Bassem also talk about their experiences with Israeli soldiers harassing their village and targeting their family.

In this exclusive episode, Abby outlines the Tamimi family’s tragic tale and unending bravery in the fight for justice and equality in Palestine, and how the story of their village of Nabi Saleh is emblematic of the Palestinian struggle as a whole.

…read more

Via:: Truthout



As Shutdown Looms Over Immigration, Trump's Rejection of Refugees Could Have Global Domino Effect

As Senate Democrats say they’ll vote against a government spending bill that fails to protect DACA recipients, setting up a potential government shutdown, we look at the worldwide refugee crisis. The United Nations Refugee Agency reports the number of displaced people worldwide has hit a record high, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes. As the humanitarian crisis grows, the United States and many other nations are limiting immigration and closing their borders. During his first year in office, President Trump sought to ban all refugees and citizens of many majority-Muslim nations. When federal judges struck down multiple versions of the so-called Muslim travel bans, Trump then slashed the number of refugees who could be resettled in the United States this year, capping the number at 45,000 — the lowest level in three decades. We speak with David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, former British MP and author of the new book, Rescue: Refugees and the Political Crisis of Our Time.

Please check back later for full transcript.

…read more

Via:: Truthout



Tech Workers of the World, Unite!

In just a handful of years, the tide of blue-collar organizing has risen in Silicon Valley. Security officers and shuttle drivers across tech firms, workers at Tesla’s Fremont manufacturing plant and cafeteria workers at Facebook and Yahoo, have united in pursuit of more equitable working conditions.

Such momentum marks a resurgence of working-class solidarity — a response to the untenable blights of excessive hours, scant-to-nonexistent benefits and pay rates inadequate for even bare necessities. Yet the trend constitutes a mere fraction of organizing efforts necessary for the tech industry. In recent years, Silicon Valley has become home to a movement calling for all rank-and-file members of the tech labor force, including handsomely compensated engineers and other white-collar employees, to view themselves as what they are — workers — and organize for the benefit of their communities.

There are numerous barriers to uniting blue-collar and white-collar workers in Silicon Valley, not least of which is tech executives’ tradition of rigorous anti-unionism. This ethos dates back decades, rooted in the counterculture-inflected view that technology would be a democratic, pioneering tool of individual liberation from “big government.” Termed the “Californian Ideology” by media theorists Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron in 1995, this philosophy adopted, as Moira Weigel noted last year in The Guardian, tenets of “personal liberty” and “market deregulation” — that is, the proliferation of free enterprise, unchallenged by workers or governments. These tropes have seeped into the environments of high-tech companies, encouraging individualism and “entrepreneurialism” among white-collar …read more

Via:: Truthout



Consenting to Normal

Women attend a #metoo rally infant of the Trump International Hotel on December 9, 2017, in Columbus Circle, New York City. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images)

In the #MeToo moment, the policing of those who speak up about varying forms of sexual violence and harm persists: the good victim/bad victim and real victim/fake victim paradigms have not gone away, they have merely shifted.

Women attend a #metoo rally infant of the Trump International Hotel on December 9, 2017, in Columbus Circle, New York City. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis via Getty Images)

In the #MeToo moment, the policing of those who speak up about varying forms of sexual violence and harm remains: The good victim/bad victim, real victim/fake victim paradigm has not gone away; it has merely shifted. And even then, not by much.

The significance of #MeToo was that it highlighted how so many of us have been affected by different forms of sexual violence, rupturing the notion that sexual violence only happens between a small and silent minority. It showed how deeply sexual violence is embedded into so many different interactions, workplaces, industries and our culture as a whole, operating in plain sight all along. While many already knew this through personal experience, it has still been a noteworthy time because of how publicly many survivors have been sharing their stories and demanding to be heard. However, while many claim to support the sentiments expressed by #MeToo, some remain steadfast in the belief that in order for sexual violence to count, it must be exceptionally and violently clear-cut. It must be real sexual violence, real rape, real rapists, real victims: otherwise, it’s a distraction, a watering-down, an appropriation, opportunism, a lack of personal responsibility, attention-seeking, or inauthentic.

Over the last week I’ve seen people writing that “Grace” and …read more

Via:: Truthout