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One Hundred Days of Deconstruction: Part 2

Beware of the enemy within. With respect to the US government, the ultimate inside job is well underway. Through key Cabinet appointments, Trump is gutting federal agencies that have improved citizens’ daily lives in ways that most Americans will no longer take for granted.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

In her confirmation hearing, billionaire Betsy DeVos made the world painfully aware that she isn’t an educator or expert in curriculum. She’s not familiar with the decades-old Individuals with Disabilities Act, or the fraudulent for-profit colleges and graduate schools that exploit their students. She seems unconcerned about the funding crisis that confronts public education in America. But she has all of the credentials required to serve in the Trump administration: She’s a billionaire with a mission to destroy the federal department she now heads.

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

Keeping Trump controversies in the family, DeVos’ brother Erik Prince is the founder of the infamous Blackwater private security firm and was a $250,000 donor to the Trump campaign. In January, Prince met secretly in the Seychelles Islands with a Russian close to Putin. Russia’s goal in the meeting, according to The Washington Post, was to establish a back-channel line of communication with the Trump administration.

As a lobbyist through her organization — the nonprofit American Federation for Children — DeVos led the effort to privatize public education in Michigan. The result: widespread abuses, dismal performance and no accountability for taxpayer funds flowing into the coffers of for-profit charter schools and management companies. In Michigan, DeVos helped to create a system that “leads the nation in the number of schools operated for profit, while other states have moved to curb the expansion of for-profit charters, or …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Trump Takes Aim at Libraries

Donald Trump’s “America First” budget proposal for 2018 puts working-class communities last, calling for the elimination of several federally supported, independent, cultural institutions, including the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

IMLS helps fund literacy and technology programs in 123,000 libraries and about 35,000 museums across the US — all with a budget of just $230 million, which is about .05 percent of the entire federal budget.

IMLS is currently funded through a continuing resolution that expires on April 28, 2017, and additional legislation must be passed for funding to continue.

If Trump’s budget passes, the cuts will have a devastating impact on those who utilize public libraries in rural areas and poor urban communities in particular.

IMLS funds libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grants to States program. It allots a base amount of $680,000 to each state plus an additional amount based on population.

The money goes toward library programming directed at underserved patron populations — teens, senior citizens, immigrants, adults learners for instance. There is also a focus on the maintenance and expansion of technology in libraries.

For many rural populations, the library is the only place to access the internet. In an official statement against Trump’s America First budget, IMLS director Kathryn Matthews explained:

We’ve invested in rural and smaller communities by supporting basic infrastructure and by developing libraries as local community hubs for broadband connectivity and digital literacy training — helping many residents gain job-related skills and, in many cases, find employment…our grants and programs support libraries and museums as essential contributors to improving Americans’ quality of life.

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For urban areas and poorer towns in states like Massachusetts, IMLS money goes toward projects that enhance access to information for working-class families who aren’t necessarily connected to universities and the databases they …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Building on the Tax Marches

As the deadline to mail checks to the IRS approached, organizers in New York were still protesting, and this time not only about President Donald Trump’s tax returns. Activists with the grassroots organization New York Communities for Change and other progressive groups held a rally on April 18 in front of Goldman Sachs’s headquarters in New York City to confront the world’s most powerful bank for dodging taxes and taking resources away from working people.

In the eight years between 2008 and 2015, Goldman avoided paying $5.5 billion in taxes by using various loopholes, billions that could have been used for public housing, healthcare, education, and many other vital programs and services. That’s around $21.60 per second in tax avoidance. At that rate, Goldman will have dodged about $4,000 in taxes by the time you finish reading this, about half the federal income taxes paid by the average American family.

While Goldman’s tax avoidance wizards worked their magic in the years following the crisis, it wasn’t because the cupboards were bare. In fact profits rose, and its net revenue in 2015 was $33.8 billion.

The fact is, most Americans don’t mind paying taxes. What ticks people off is when rich people don’t pay their fair share. This year, longstanding tax avoidance by the most powerful individuals and corporations got people off their chairs and into the streets in protest.

Saturday’s tax rallies across the country helped refocus America’s outrage at Trump’s refusal to make his tax returns public as every President since Richard Nixon has done. The rally at Goldman Sachs was a reminder that the demand for transparency is only the tip of the iceberg. For the protesters at Goldman Sachs chanting “Stop Looting America!”, the fight for tax justice is …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Monuments to White Supremacy Are Finally Falling in New Orleans

A statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee sits atop a large  monument at the center of Lee Circle in the Central Business District of New  Orleans, Louisiana. The monument is one of four being removed after years of  protest by racial justice activists. (Photo: Mike Ludwig)

A statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee sits atop a large monument at the center of Lee Circle in the Central Business District of New Orleans, Louisiana. The monument is one of four being removed after years of protest by racial justice activists. (Photo: Mike Ludwig)

New Orleans — On May 7, 1954, thousands of Black activists, students and teachers in New Orleans boycotted “McDonough Day,” an annual dedication to an early patron of the city’s public schools. Every year, white students would line up to pay their respects to a statue of the 19th century philanthropist John McDonough while Black students waited to participate in a second ceremony afterward, sometimes waiting hours in the hot southern sun.

In 1954, more than 30,000 Black students refused to show up to McDonough Day, marking one of the first major protests of the civil rights movement. Less than two weeks later, the Supreme Court declared segregation in schools to be unconstitutional, overturning Plessey vs. Ferguson, the famous “separate but equal” case that stemmed from Homer Plessey’s act of civil disobedience in New Orleans 60 years earlier.

Malcolm Suber is a longtime activist in New Orleans and a spokesman for Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a racial justice group that is pushing the city to remove symbols of white supremacy from public spaces. He says the McDonough Day Boycott marked the birth of a movement that has continued for decades, and that movement is celebrating this week as New Orleans begins the process of removing four monuments dedicated to heroes of Confederate efforts to uphold white supremacy.

“It’s big victory for our movement … the Black community has been protesting these white supremacy monuments viscerally since 1954,” Suber told Truthout.

The city took down …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Coal Miners' Futures in Renewable Energy

Workers instal solar panelsin upstate New York, April 7, 2016. (Photo: Stephen Yang / The Solutions Project)

Most experts agree, despite Trump’s promises, that coal-mining jobs are not coming back. But this month Berkeley Energy Group announced plans to put coal miners back to work by building the largest solar project in Appalachia on top of a closed mountaintop strip mine near the town of Pikeville.

Workers instal solar panelsin upstate New York, April 7, 2016. (Photo: Stephen Yang / The Solutions Project)

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If President Trump wants to earn a rare legislative victory and take political credit for reviving hard-hit regions of rural America, he should take a close look at how one Kentucky coal company is creating jobs.

Berkeley Energy Group this month announced plans to put coal miners back to work by building the largest solar project in Appalachia on top of a closed mountaintop strip mine near the town of Pikeville. The Eastern Kentucky coal company is partnering with the Environmental Defense Fund, which has helped develop 9,000 megawatts of renewable energy, to bring jobs and clean energy to the region.

Mining employment in the area has plummeted from more than 14,000 jobs in 2008 to fewer than 4,000 today, owing to mine automation, competition from natural gas, and environmental controls on dirty coal emissions.

Even if Trump’s administration and Congress roll back clean air and water rules, most experts agree that coal-mining jobs are not coming back, particularly in Appalachia where production costs are relatively high.

But there is vast potential for the region to reclaim its ravaged landscapes for use in generating solar energy, if federal policy continues to offer incentives. <a class="colorbox" rel="nofollow" …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Brace for Government Shutdown as Republicans Face Impossible Tasks

House Speaker Paul Ryan at a news conference following a House Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, April, 26, 2017. With the deadline to avert a government shutdown looming, lawmakers are negotiating a spending bill that would supply no money for a border wall but would increase funding for the military and other border security measures. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)

House Speaker Paul Ryan at a news conference following a House Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, April, 26, 2017. With the deadline to avert a government shutdown looming, lawmakers are negotiating a spending bill that would supply no money for a border wall but would increase funding for the military and other border security measures. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)

Can President Donald J. Trump and the Republicans actually govern? As we near the 100th day mark the answer has been a loud “no.” So far. This week the Congress and the president will once again try for wins to fund the government, repeal the Affordable Care Act, extra money for Defense, and to construct a wall on the southern border. A nearly impossible order.

The House of Representatives does not have a governing coalition. There remains, essentially, three parties: Republicans, Democrats, and the Freedom Caucus. Two of these three groups must work together in order to pass any legislation. And to complicate the politics even more, many of the Republican members are already worried about their own re-election, so they might not support their own party’s leaders. Especially if that deal is sanctioned by the Freedom Caucus.

Yet Speaker Paul Ryan told his caucus Saturday that funding the government is the priority. The president was equally optimistic. “I think we’re in good shape,” President Trump said.

There are two budgets at issue. First there is the one proposed by the White House, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” That budget would not begin until October and would result in a dramatic restructuring of the federal government. Many members of Congress have said there is no chance this budget will be …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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“We Are Going to Shut It Down on May 1”: Caravan Against Fear Mobilizes the Masses

Hundreds gathered to protest LA County Sheriff McDonnell's opposition to California sancturary bill SB54 and his collaboration with ICE. Eight members of the Caravan Against Fear were arrested by LAPD. (Photo: Caravan Against Fear)

It is incredibly important for all of the labor movement to be involved in this fight because the issues of racial justice, immigration and environmental justice are at the forefront of workers’ lives every single day, says Alejandra Valles, secretary treasurer for SEIU United Services Workers West, which has organized the ongoing multistate Caravan Against Fear.

Hundreds gathered to protest LA County Sheriff McDonnell’s opposition to California sancturary bill SB54 and his collaboration with ICE. Eight members of the Caravan Against Fear were arrested by LAPD. (Photo: Caravan Against Fear)

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Since election night 2016, the streets of the US have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this ongoing “Interviews for Resistance” series, experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers share their insights on what works, what doesn’t, what has changed and what is still the same. Today’s interview is the 32nd in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

Today we bring you a conversation with Alejandra Valles, the secretary treasurer for SEIU United Services Workers West. The union represents janitors, security officers and airport workers across California.

Sarah Jaffe: You are one of the organizers of the Caravan Against Fear that is going on right now.

Alejandra Valles: The Caravan Against Fear was organized by SEIU USWW. Also, Global Exchange [and] Rompevieto TV in Mexico City. But then, also, over 230 organizations, binational organizations, that have come on board. The National Day …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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How Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Laid the Groundwork for Trump's Immigration Policies

Protesters rally during May Day March to Stop Deportations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 1, 2014.

Protesters rally during May Day March to Stop Deportations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 1, 2014. (Photo: Joe Brusky / Flickr)

Ever since he rode a Trump Tower escalator into the presidential race in June 2015 and swore to build his “great wall” and stop Mexican “rapists” from entering the country, undocumented immigrants have been the focus of Donald Trump’s ire. Now that he’s in the Oval Office, the news has been grim. A drumbeat of frightening headlines and panicked social media posts have highlighted his incendiary language, his plans and executive orders when it comes to immigrants, and the early acts of the Border Patrol and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents when it comes to round-ups and deportations. The temperature has soared on the deportation debate, so if you think we’re in a completely unprecedented moment when it comes to immigration and immigrants, you’re in good company.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that immigrants, especially undocumented ones, are flooding the United States, causing crime waves, and depleting social service budgets. Never mind that the number of such immigrants has been in steady decline since 2008, that immigrant crime rates are lower than citizen crime rates, that the undocumented have no access to most social welfare programs, and that crime figures, too, have generally been on the decline in recent years.

The media has played its own role in fanning the flames. Since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, news reports have proliferated about rising raids, arrests, detentions, and deportations. These suggest that something new, terrifying, and distinctly Trumpian — something we’ve simply never seen before — is underway, including mass sweeps to deport individuals …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Pentagon Ties Russia to Taliban Attack, Publicly Accuses Moscow of Arming Afghan Militants

The aftermath of a bombing attack at the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 22, 2017. The attack almost devastated the entire leadership of the only province in the south of Afghanistan that is putting up some resistance to a Taliban surge. (Photo: Mujib Mashal / The New York Times)

The aftermath of a bombing attack at the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 22, 2017. The attack almost devastated the entire leadership of the only province in the south of Afghanistan that is putting up some resistance to a Taliban surge. (Photo: Mujib Mashal / The New York Times)

The US military has increased its confidence in reports accusing Russia of arming the Taliban.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. John Nicholson, the Commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, spoke about the claims on Monday, at a press conference in Kabul.

When asked directly by a reporter about alleged Russian weapon shipments to the Taliban, Gen. Nicholson said: “Oh no, I’m not refuting that.”

“The level of granularity and the level of success they’re achieving, I think the jury is still out on that,” Mattis noted. He said that arm shipments from Russia to the Taliban “would have to be dealt with as a violation of international law.”

Late last month, other top ranking US military officials spoke to the allegations, but discussed them with greater uncertainty.

“I think it is fair to assume they may be providing some sort of support to [the Taliban], in terms of weapons or other things that may be there,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, the leader of US Central Command.

NATO commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said that Russia had increased “association [with] and perhaps even supply to the Taliban.”

In February, Gen. Nicholson also discussed Russian interactions with the Taliban, but he did not openly accuse Moscow of offering material assistance to the group.

“There is some classified reporting that I’d request to share with you in another venue,” Nicholson told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “But we …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Gorsuch Is Already Channeling Scalia on Life-or-Death Decisions

Judge Neil Gorsuch at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 22, 2017. (Photo: Eric Thayer / The New York Times)

Judge Neil Gorsuch at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 22, 2017. (Photo: Eric Thayer / The New York Times)

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch has already revealed his right-wing bias on the Supreme Court. He will readily impose the death penalty and side with the religious right against reproductive rights, with corporations against workers and with executive power over civil liberties.

Judge Neil Gorsuch at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 22, 2017. (Photo: Eric Thayer / The New York Times)Judge Neil Gorsuch at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 22, 2017. (Photo: Eric Thayer / The New York Times)

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Just days after stealing Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat, Neil Gorsuch is channeling Antonin Scalia. On April 20, the newly minted associate justice cast his first ballot. Gorsuch provided the fifth vote that allowed Arkansas to execute a likely innocent man.

Casting the Deciding Vote for Death

For 24 years, Ledell Lee maintained his innocence, and requested a DNA test that might have proven it. But five members of the high court, including Gorsuch, denied Lee’s request because Arkansas’s supply of midazolam, required for Lee’s lethal injection, was fast approaching its expiration date.

“In my view, that factor, when considered as a determining factor separating those who live from those who die, is close to random,” Justice Stephen Breyer penned in dissent.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

The New York Times editorial board wrote, “Neil Gorsuch held the …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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