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Pardon Me! High Crimes and Demeanors in the Age of Trump

Let me try to get this straight: from the moment the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 until recently just about every politician and mainstream pundit in America assured us that we were the planet’s indispensable nation, the only truly exceptional one on this small orb of ours.

We were the sole superpower, Earth’s hyperpower, its designated global sheriff, the architect of our planetary future. After five centuries of great power rivalries, in the wake of a two-superpower world that, amid the threat of nuclear annihilation, seemed to last forever and a day (even if it didn’t quite make it 50 years), the United States was the ultimate survivor, the victor of victors, the last of the last. It stood triumphantly at the end of history. In a lottery that had lasted since Europe’s wooden ships first broke out of a periphery of Eurasia and began to colonize much of the planet, the United States was the chosen one, the country that would leave every imperial world-maker from the Romans to the British in its shadow.

Who could doubt that this was now our world in a coming American century beyond compare?

And then, of course, came the attacks of 9/11. A mere $400,000 and 19 suicidal hijackers (mostly Saudis) armed with box cutters and organized from Afghanistan had challenged the greatest power of all time. In the process, they would bring down iconic structures in what would soon be known to Americans as “the homeland,” while killing almost 3,000 innocent civilians, acts so shocking that they really did change the world.

Yet even then, a fervor for world-organizing triumphalism only took firmer hold in Washington. The top officials of President George W. Bush’s administration almost instantly saw the 9/11 attacks as their …read more

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Stonewall Jackson's Great-Great-Grandsons Call for Removal of Confederate Monuments

As President Trump faces growing outrage over his response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, we bring you an exclusive: an interview with the great-great-grandsons of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. At least 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy can be found in public spaces across the country. But now a number of the monuments are coming down. Calls for the removal of the statues are even coming from the descendants of the leaders of the Confederacy. We speak with two of the great-great-grandsons of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Jack and Warren Christian have just written an open letter to the mayor of Richmond calling for the removal of the Stonewall Jackson statue in Richmond. They write, “Our sense of justice leads us to believe that removing the Stonewall statue and other monuments should be part of a larger project of actively mending the racial disparities that hundreds of years of white supremacy have wrought.”

Please check back later for full transcript.

…read more

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Trump Has Broad Power to Block Climate Change Report

Earlier this month, someone involved in the government’s latest report on climate change provided The New York Times with a copy of the version submitted to the Trump administration for final approval. The main intent of the leak, according to several people tracking the report, was to complicate any attempt to suppress the study or water down its findings.

Publication of the document inflamed an already-fraught debate about climate change. Administration officials and Republican lawmakers accused the leaker and journalists of manufacturing a dispute. They said the report, which was required by law, was moving through a normal process of White House review.

The report was submitted in late June and the Trump administration has broad authority to review its findings. Any one of a number of government agencies can block its release, which is ultimately subject to presidential review.

Some of the scientists involved in preparing the document expressed concern that it might never see the light of day. Katharine Hayhoe, a lead author of the report and director of Texas Tech University’s Climate Science Center, said the motivation of its 50-plus authors — a mix of government and academic researchers — was to convey to the public and government officials the scope of a building crisis.

“As a climate scientist, I feel communicating this science is a moral responsibility,” she said, noting that the contributors from academia were working without pay and taking away time from their teaching and scholarships. “We are the physicians of the planet,” she added. “Climate change poses risks to people and our economy.”

Several people involved with the study said the heat drawn by the early disclosure of the document might well have the opposite of its intended effect. They said there are signs that the Trump administration …read more

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The Politics Behind Your College and How You Pay for It

With the end of summer fast approaching comes another year of rising college tuition costs and looming student loans.

College tuition has increased over the past several decades, but in the last 10 years the average cost of tuition for four-year public colleges and universities has grown at a lower rate than previous decades. Still, the price tag for college is not cheap. For the average four-year public institution, tuition can cost about $9,650, according to College Board. The average tuition total for private non-profit institutions is more than triple that at $33,480.

These high tuition costs have inevitably led to more students taking out loans in order to afford their education. Across the United States, there are more than 44 million student loan borrowers who have accrued approximately $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, according to Forbes.

The student loan industry is a major player in money in politics, but was not as active in 2016 as it has been in the past. For the 2016 election cycle, student loan companies gave just over $982,000 in contributions to federal candidates, parties and outside groups. The industry reported more than $1 million in contributions for both the 2014 and 2012 cycles.

Roughly three-quarters of the industry’s contributions for 2016 went to Republican candidates and parties. The student loan industry has allocated more of its contributions to Republicans than Democrats in every cycle since 1996.

The top three student loan companies making campaign contributions in 2016 were College Loan Corp with $668,000 donated, Navient Corp with almost $283,000, and NelNet Inc with just under $168,000. All three companies gave the majority of their contributions to Republican …read more

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Capitalist Economies Create Waste, Not Social Value

(Photo: hroe / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

More production means more waste: more waste means more production. Waste is a sign of capitalism’s success. In this excerpt from Creating an Ecological Society, Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams show the immense levels of waste created by capitalism today, including the prison-industrial complex, food system and housing in the United States — not to mention the horrendous expensive and wasteful US military.

(Photo: hroe / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

What would a truly just, equal and ecologically sustainable future look like? Why would it require a change in our economic system, namely the end of capitalism? Fred Magdoff and Chris Williams answer these questions in Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation. Suffused with radical hope, this book can be yours with a donation to Truthout!

In this excerpt, Magdoff and Williams show the immense levels of waste created by capitalism today, including the prison-industrial complex, food system and housing in the United States — not to mention the horrendous expensive and wasteful US military.

More production means more waste: more waste means more production. Waste is a sign of capitalism’s success. When people throw away a product after using it for a short period of time, in the spirit of planned obsolescence, they will buy a new one, contributing to growth and corporate profits.

As early as the 1920s Stuart Chase identified four systematic sources of waste under capitalism: (1) the labor power used to produce “vicious or useless goods and services”; (2) labor power wasted due to unemployment; (3) the unplanned nature of production and distribution of goods leading to inefficiencies and overproduction; and (4) the senseless waste and overuse of natural resources. Addressing the term coined by nineteenth-century writer and social reformer John Ruskin, …read more

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Iran Will Change When the US Changes

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster listens during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House July 31, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

If Trump wants a change in Iran’s regional policies, he must be open to changing Washington’s policies too, because in US-Iran relations, hostility begets hostility. While Trump accuses Iran of violating the spirit of the nuclear deal, the US is actually violating the letter of that deal by undermining legal trade with Iran.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster listens during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House July 31, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

This story was made possible by support from readers like you. Help Truthout report on the urgent issues of health care, climate change, US foreign policy and more: Make a tax-deductible donation today.

Donald Trump wants to kill the Iran nuclear deal. Exactly why he aims to destroy a perfectly functioning arms control deal that has prevented both an Iranian nuclear option and war with Iran remains unclear. Despite Iran’s confirmed adherence to the deal, Trump claims Iran is in violation of its “spirit.” (I have written a book on the negotiations and the deal but have yet to come across the text of the deal’s spirit.)

National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster gives us a hint about what Trump interprets to be the spirit of the deal: “The intent was to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon,” McMaster told MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt, “but also then to — to get them to moderate the beha — their behavior. What — what the regime did is the opposite of that. They actually intensified their destabilizing behavior acr — across the region.”

If McMaster is to be believed — meaning, Trump’s opposition is not rooted in either an obsession with undoing all of Obama’s …read more

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FCC Packs Broadband Advisory Group With Big Telecom Firms, Trade Groups

When the Federal Communications Commission went looking this year for experts to sit on an advisory committee regarding deployment of high-speed internet, Gary Carter thought he would be a logical choice.

Carter works for the city of Santa Monica, California, where he oversees City Net, one of the oldest municipal-run networks in the nation. The network sells high-speed internet to local businesses, and uses the revenue in part to connect low-income neighborhoods.

That experience seemed to be a good match for the proposed Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC), which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai created this year. One of the panel’s stated goals is to streamline city and state rules that might accelerate installation of high-speed internet. But one of the unstated goals, members say, is to make it easier for companies to build networks for the next generation wireless technology, called 5G. The advanced network, which promises faster speeds, will require that millions of small cells and towers be erected nationwide on city- and state-owned public property.

The assignment seemed to call out for participation from city officials like Carter, since municipal officials approve where and what equipment telecommunications companies can place on public rights of way, poles and buildings.

But the FCC didn’t choose Carter — or almost any of the other city or state government officials who applied. Sixty-four city and state officials were nominated for the panel, but the agency initially chose only two: Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, California, and Kelleigh Cole from the Utah Governor’s Office, according to documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity through a Freedom of Information Act request. Pai later appointed another city official, Andy Huckaba, a member of the Lenexa, Kansas, city council.

Instead the FCC loaded the 30-member panel with corporate executives, trade groups and free-market …read more

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Trump's Economic Council Implodes as White House Defends White Supremacists

Donald Trump speaks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017, in New York City. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Donald Trump speaks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017, in New York City. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and white supremacists. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s private and political career has been colored by several accusations of blatant racism, but it was the President’s recent defense of white supremacists and neo-Nazis that forced CEOs to finally distance themselves from the administration.

Two White House panels, staffed with CEOs of top companies, were abruptly disbanded on Wednesday by President Trump, whose hand was forced by several high-profile resignations in the wake of the President’s reaction to the racist violence in Charlottesville, Va.

The CEO of the mining company 3M, Inge Thulin, and Campbell’s soup CEO Denise Morrison announced they were leaving Trump’s Manufacturing Advisory Council on Wednesday morning. They were the seventh and eighth business leaders to step down from the panel since the attack in Charlottesville on Saturday.

Trump reacted by nixing the council and a parallel body, known as the Strategic and Policy Forum, whose members issued a statement on Wednesday, affirming their opposition to racism and bigotry.

“As our members have expressed individually over the past several days, intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this country and are an affront to core American values,” the group wrote.

Trump tweeted in response: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!”

Three members of the forum had already resigned prior to the events in Charlottesville. Following Trump’s Muslim travel ban, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down. Tesla chief Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger left later after …read more

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Trump's “Both Sides” Rhetoric: Liberals Beat Him to the Punch

(Photo: Vadimguzhva / Stock / Getty Images Plus)

While Trump’s “both sides” rhetoric has been widely condemned, some liberals and centrists have also lent cover to violent white supremacists by taking aim at the tactics of antifa and Black Lives Matter activists who held their ground in the face of fascism.

(Photo: Vadimguzhva / Stock / Getty Images Plus)

“The thing about us fascists is, it’s not that we don’t believe in freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want. We’ll just throw you in an oven.” — Peter Tefft, white nationalist.

Which side are you on? When one side is composed of Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists, and the other is made up of people attempting to stop them, the answer should be simple: not with the Nazis. But the president of the United States has infamously taken a different view, characterizing the counter-protesters who squared off with Nazis in Charlottesville as having incited the deadly violence the city saw last weekend. Trump also assured the press that there were “fine people” at the Charlottesville convening of white nationalists and other proponents of ethnic cleansing. By lending political cover to his brutish, racist fandom, Trump has both emboldened his followers and further normalized white nationalism in the public consciousness. But amid our ubiquitous condemnations of Trump’s “both sides” rhetoric, the left has largely erased the fact that another group beat Trump to the punch: Respectable Liberals.

Social media has been awash in leftist condemnations of antifa and other counter-protesters who disrupted white supremacist events in Charlottesville last weekend. Many liberals have also criticized protesters in Durham, North Carolina, who removed a Confederate statue on Monday. Liberals who condemned the actions of the Durham protesters stated that the protesters’ cause was just, but that there are “better ways” …read more

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