Author Archive | Partisan

Fixing Facebook and Defending Democracy

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at F8 in San Jose, California, April 18, 2017. (Photo: Anthony Quintano)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at F8 in San Jose, California, April 18, 2017. (Photo: Anthony Quintano)

Facebook recently acknowledged it received more than $100,000 from Russian sources to purchase ads intended to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. While the actual amount spent on such ads may have been considerably higher, this is the amount the company itself acknowledges.

It’s impossible to know how much impact such ads could have, but there is no doubt that these were placed with the intent to deceive. The ads had phony sponsors; none of them indicated that they were funded by Russians, likely with ties to the government.

In the fallout from this disclosure, Facebook is doing the usual corporate Keystone cops routine, saying that they had no idea and couldn’t possibly police against this sort of misuse of their system. The Democrats, who get plenty of campaign contributions from the Facebook crew, immediately moved to demand ineffectual steps from Federal Election Commission (FEC), the most ineffectual federal agency ever created.

In the months ahead we can expect much troubled handwringing from pundits telling us how hard it is to police against this sort of abuse with a social network like Facebook. We will be told that this is just one of those inevitable problems of living with the Internet.

While the politicians in Washington may not want to find a solution that could be expensive for their Silicon Valley friends, it actually is not hard to devise a mechanism that would get Facebook to effectively police …read more

Via:: Truthout



The Americans With Disabilities Act Is Under Threat

The optics were bad enough when disabled Americans were being dragged out of capital buildings as they protested potential loss of benefits in the first two iterations of Republican health care bills. For the protestors it was all about Medicaid. The Senate bill did away with Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion which would drop millions of low-income Americans from the rolls. And the bill completely changed the way Medicaid is financed — getting rid of open-ended funding and moving toward a “per-capita” system. The new Graham-Cassidy billunder consideration needs to be voted on within the next week to get an easy pass with just 51 votes. Like its predecessors, it also halts Medicaid expansion and turns Medicaid dollars over to the states to determine spending.

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

But disability advocates have even more reason to be distressed by the policies of the Republican administration. Long a dream of the Chamber of Commerce, the real estate industry and those who see “frivolous lawsuits” around every corner, the Americans with Disabilities Act is in danger of having its bite removed. Just after celebrating the 27th birthday of the act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, up pops (H.R. 620) The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017.

As Jake Flanagin at Quartz reports:

The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 620) seems like a rather innocuous bill at first glance — it compels the Department of Justice to formulate a program that educates state and local officials and business owners on “strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with a disability.” A prime example of fatty, ostensibly meaningless Washington wonk-speak. But it goes further — the bill, if …read more

Via:: Truthout



Former NFL Player Donté Stallworth: Don't Let Trump Hijack the Conversation on Racism & Violence

It a campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday evening, Trump lashed out at players who have joined a growing protest movement started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick against racial injustice, kneeling during the national anthem ahead of games. We get response from former NFL player Donté Stallworth, who spent 10 years in the league and is now a sports commentator, who says, “We can’t allow the president to hijack this conversation and make it all about him.”

Please check back later for full transcript.

…read more

Via:: Truthout



Trump Issues New Travel Ban

By Matt Ford

The Trump administration rolled out a new version of its controversial travel ban on Sunday the Washington Post reported, restricting visa applications and entry into the United States from Syria, Somalia, Iran, Yemen and Libya, while adding three new countries, North Korea, Venezuela, and Chad. Of the three new additions, only Chad is a Muslim-majority nation like the others targeted in the original ban.

The new restrictions for the eight countries came hours before a key portion of President Trump’s previous version of the ban was set to expire. Under that iteration, the State Department suspended visa applications from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days while the federal government conducted a worldwide review of border-security standards. The 90-day clock began in late June when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a modified version of the ban to go into force.

On a conference call with reporters on Friday, administration officials said they developed the new standards as part of the review, and in close coordination with countries around the world. Some, but not all, of the measures are borrowed from existing programs like the Visa Waiver Program, which allows visa-free entry into the country for 90 days from the European Union and other close U.S. allies. Other restrictions are aimed at potential terrorist threats from countries lacking either the will or the ability to screen prospective travelers, the officials said.

The new rules are the product of a joint effort between the State, Justice, and Homeland Security Departments, as well as the Trump White House. Going into the weekend there were few clues about what the restrictions would look like.

On the Friday call, officials from the State, Justice, and Homeland Security Departments declined to offer any details about their recommendations to Trump, when exactly the new parameters would be announced, and the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Trump’s Shocking Recklessness

By James Fallows

During last year’s presidential campaign, I conducted a running feature called the “Trump Time Capsule.” Its purpose was to chronicle the things Donald Trump said or did each day that were entirely outside the range of previous presidents or major-party nominees. This, in turn, was meant to lay down a record of what was known about this man as the electorate decided whether to elevate him to presidential power.

By the time the campaign ended, the series had reached installment #152. Who Donald Trump was, and is, was absolutely clear by election day: ignorant, biased, narcissistic, dishonest. As Ta-Nehisi Coates argues in our current issue, everyone who voted for him do so with ample evidence about the kind of person they considered the “better” choice, or even as a minimally acceptable choice for president. Almost nothing Trump has done since taking office should come as a surprise.

But numerous things Trump has done are objectively shocking, in the sense of further violating the norms of the office and the historic standards the previous 44 incumbents have observed. (Among the things the Trump era has taught us: the difference in nuance between shock and surprise. My argument here is that Donald Trump in office has delivered a nonstop series of shocks, no one of which can really be considered a surprise.)

The past 36 hours have brought two dramatic and destructive illustrations, in which Trump has recklessly done great damage in areas where even the most flawed of his predecessors felt some constraint. They are his unmistakable race-baiting attacks on athletes as widely popular as Steph Curry and LeBron James, and as controversial as Colin Kaepernick, who have in common the fact of being black; and his unmistakably war-mongering latest set of tweeted insult-threats against North Korea and its leader.

<p …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Why Cede the Flag to Trump?

By David Frum

President Trump apparently slept on it overnight and woke up early on Sunday morning thinking: “Yes, I will fight a cultural war against black athletes.”

In two Sunday morning tweets, Trump urged a boycott of the National Football League until owners punished players who refused to stand for the national anthem, in protest of police brutality and racial injustice—capping a weekend of taunting and trash-talking that began at his Alabama rally Friday night. He’s now created a situation in which it will seem almost unmanly for black athletes, and not only football players, not to take a knee during the anthem. If they stand for the anthem, they will seem to do so at Trump’s command. How can they not resist?

Trump had another of his bad weeks last week. His secretary of health and human services was exposed for chartering expensive private jets at public expense. His Environmental Protection Agency director is charging the Treasury for a security detail big enough to impress Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. One more attempt to repeal Obamacare disintegrated in the Senate. A star basketball player publicly refused an invitation to the White House. The FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for Trump’s onetime campaign chair, Paul Manafort, while the campaign was still underway, CNN reported last week.  

When in trouble, Trump habitually falls back on the same trick: enflaming conservative cultural grievances. American flags, Confederate memorials—anything will do. You would not know it from the Twitter debate, but Trump shrewdly seized the majority side of the Robert E. Lee statue debate: An August YouGov poll found that only about one-quarter of the country agrees that such monuments should be seen as symbols of racism. The polling on standing for the national anthem will presumably be even more lopsided.

Trump, the least …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Will Trump Change the Way Presidents Approach National Monuments?

By Lena Felton

In April, President Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review more than two dozen national monuments, arguing that the designation of sites under previous administrations had gotten out of hand. Months later, Zinke’s recommendations, detailed in a leaked memo delivered to the White House, have sparked concern among local officials and environmental groups, prompting some to describe the proposals as “unprecedented.”

Zinke recommended changes to 10 national monuments, including Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Nevada’s Gold Butte. His proposals range from lifting restrictions on activities like commercial fishing to shrinking the parameters of at least four of the sites.

The contents of the report were made public a week shy of the 111th anniversary of America’s very first national monument designation. On September 24, 1906, Theodore Roosevelt deemed an area known as Devils Tower, Wyoming, worthy of preservation under the Antiquities Act. That act, passed the same year, gives presidents the power to protect “objects of historic and scientific interest.”

Devils Tower—a tan-colored monster of a rock, looming 1,267 feet above another thousand acres of open land—was just one of the 18 national monuments Roosevelt established during his presidency. Today, the country boasts more than 150 in total, from Governors Island in New York to Death Valley in California. Only three presidents since Roosevelt—Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush—opted not to designate any during their terms. Never before, though, has a president attempted to scale down monuments to the extent that Zinke proposes.

Throughout history, a few monuments have become the source of political conflict. In 1915, for example, Woodrow Wilson cut down the boundaries of Roosevelt’s designation of Mount Olympus National Monument, much to environmentalists’ dismay. This past April, Trump called former President Barack Obama’s designation of …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



In the Caribbean, Colonialism and Inequality Mean Hurricanes Hit Harder

Hurricane Maria, the 15th tropical depression this season, is now battering the Caribbean, just two weeks after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in the region.

The devastation in Dominica is “mind-boggling,” wrote the country’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, on Facebook just after midnight on September 19. The next day, in Puerto Rico, NPR reported via member station WRTU in San Juan that “Most of the island is without power…or water.”

Among the Caribbean islands impacted by both deadly storms are Puerto Rico, St Kitts, Tortola and Barbuda.

In this region, disaster damages are frequently amplified by needlessly protracted and incomplete recoveries. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan rolled roughshod through the Caribbean with wind speeds of 160 mph. The region’s economy took more than three years to recover. Grenada’s surplus of US$17 million became a deficit of $54 million, thanks to decreased revenue and the outlays for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Nor were the effects of a 7 magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010 limited to killing some 150,000 people. United Nations peacekeepers sent in to help left the country grappling, to this day, with a fatal cholera outbreak.

These are not isolated instances of random bad luck. As University of the West Indies geographers who study risk perception and political ecology, we recognize the deep, human-induced roots of climate change, inequality and the underdevelopment of former colonies — all of which increase the Caribbean’s vulnerability to disaster.

Risk, Vulnerability and Poverty

Disaster risk is a function of both a place’s physical hazard exposure — that is, how directly it is threatened by disaster — and its social vulnerability, specifically, …read more

Via:: Truthout



Graham-Cassidy Is Evil Incarnate

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) (2nd L) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (L) listen during a news conference on health care September 13, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

US Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) listen during a news conference on health care September 13, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Millions stripped of coverage. No more essential care. No more protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Medicaid money in blue states plundered and sent to red states as a reward for thwarting Obama back in 2014. Why? To pay for a trillion-dollar tax cut for rich people. If Graham-Cassidy isn’t evil, the word has no meaning.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) (2nd L) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (L) listen during a news conference on health care September 13, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)US Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nevada) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) listen during a news conference on health care September 13, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “evil” as “morally reprehensible; arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct; causing discomfort or repulsion; disagreeable; causing harm; marked by misfortune.” Synonyms for “evil” include the words wicked, malevolent, sinful, malicious and criminal.

Sounds just about exactly right.

After eleventy billion failed attempts to do away with Obamacare, we have arrived at this latest, last iteration right here at the edge of everything, where the shore gives way to the deep blue sea. I’ve been staring smoking holes in the white space on my screen trying to find a calmly professional way to describe the first-degree murder and grand theft represented by the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Being nice is …read more

Via:: Truthout



Obamacare Website to Be Shut Down for Portion of Most Weekends During Open Enrollment

People wait in line to see an agent from Sunshine Life and Health Advisors as the Affordable Care Act website is reading, ' has a lot of visitors right now!' at a store setup in the Mall of Americas on March 31, 2014 in Miami, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

People wait in line to see an agent from Sunshine Life and Health Advisors as the Affordable Care Act website is reading, “ has a lot of visitors right now!” at a store setup in the Mall of Americas on March 31, 2014, in Miami, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

The Trump administration plans to shut down the federal health insurance exchange for 12 hours during all but one Sunday in the upcoming open enrollment season.

The shutdown will occur from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET on every Sunday except Dec. 10.

The Department of Health and Human Services will also shut down the federal exchange — — overnight on the first day of open enrollment, Nov. 1. More than three dozen states use that exchange for their marketplaces.

HHS officials disclosed this information Friday during a webinar with community groups that help people enroll.

The Trump administration has come under attack from critics who say that it is intentionally undermining the Affordable Care Act, through regulatory actions. It shortened the enrollment period, withdrew money for advertising and cut the budget for navigator groups, which help people shop for plans.

And now HHS is closing the site for a substantial portion of each weekend — for maintenance, officials said. That is the same time that many working patients — the prime target group for ACA insurance — could be shopping for their insurance, critics noted.

“The Department of Health & Human Services is actively trying to prevent people from signing up for healthcare coverage,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted. “This is outrageous.”

“Argh” was the reaction of Shelli Quenga, program director at the Palmetto Project in South Carolina, a nonprofit group that received about $1 million to …read more

Via:: Truthout