Rep. Ilhan Omar reminds us: “Stephen Miller is a White Nationalist”

Rep. Ilhan Omar said the obvious yesterday:

This should not come as a shock to anyone. His family also knows he’s a white nationalist, his uncle wrote an Op-Ed about how he saw Miller’s politics as a betrayal of everything their family was:

I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, who is an educated man and well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.

I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants— been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the U.S. just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the “America First” nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family would likely have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him. — www.politico.com/…

We’ve also known for a long time that Stephen Miller was a little barrel of xenophobic hate. The moment Trump began running, it was clear that Miller and his boss then Senator Jeff Sessions would throw their lot in with him. Miller was also allied with white supremacist Steve Bannon in peddling extreme xenophobia as a political strategy. 

U.S. demographics have been changing rapidly — and undesirably in the eyes of top Trump aides, including his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and domestic policy advisor Stephen Miller. Inside the West Wing, the two men have pushed an ominous view of refugee and immigration flows, telling other policymakers that if large numbers of Muslims are allowed to enter the U.S., parts of American cities will begin to replicate marginalized immigrant neighborhoods in France, Germany and Belgium that have been home to plotters of terrorist attacks in recent years, according to a White House aide familiar with the discussions. — LA Times

We’ve always known he was the worst kind of entitled trash. Back in 2017, a former janitor, now professor at U. Chicago had this to say about Miller’s high school speech where he said “[I’m] sick and tired of being told to pick up my trash when we have plenty of janitors who are paid to do it for us”:

He’s also a pedantic twat, of the special sort created on white supremacist web-sites. That is the character trait which led him to raise a fuss when Jim Acosta quoted “The Statue of Liberty says, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.’ It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being a computer programmer,”Acosta said. “Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them that you have to speak English?” — www.cnn.com/…

Bannon and Sessions are gone, but Miller has outlasted them, and for the past 2+ years, he has been driving the cruel policies of the Trump administration, visibly reveling in inflicting agony on children and parents.

Of course, if the goal were simply to draw voters’ attention to the border, there are plenty of ways to do it that are less controversial (not to mention, less cruel) than ripping young children from the arms of asylum seekers and sticking them in dystopian-looking detention centers. But for Miller, the public outrage and anger elicited by policies like forced family separation are a feature, not a bug.  — www.theatlantic.com/…

Rep. Omar is saying something that has been obvious for years, to all who would see with open eyes and hearts.

— @subirgrewal

The paradigm shift we need for single-payer

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn published The Structure of Scientific Revolution a book that changed the way we think about scientific progress. Kuhn posits that scientific progress is punctuated progress where major advances are made by what he called “paradigm shifts”. These paradigm shifts open unexpected areas of enquiry, and allow scientists to accumulate knowledge in more gradual steps. These revolutions were often initiated by unknown scientists presenting radical ideas outside the mainstream. This powerful idea of “paradigm shifts” has since entered the general lexicon, but its implications are not always fully appreciated.

Though Kuhn applied his conception of revolutionary change to the project of science, it has a broader application and a longer history. In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, the economist Joseph Schumpeter outlined his theory of “creative destruction”. Schumpeter identified the periodic destruction of certain commercial ventures, so new ones could take their place.  In his analysis, a “gale of creative destruction” drives “industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”.

Schumpeter owed at least part of his inspiration to Marx’s analysis of accumulation and destruction of capital. And we can go on, in the study of both human and natural societies, scientists and philosophers have remarked on concentrated periods of change. All observers of humanity understand that there are moments of profound regeneration when we see with new, clear eyes and the world is remade. The rest of the time, we plod along, one step at a time.

Sorting out bureaucratic details is not the biggest hurdle when implementing systematic changes. The challenge is to demolish unexamined assumptions that unduly constrain the range of possibilities. In the context of the US health-care system, the unexamined assumption is that health-care must be earned. That only those who are deserving should be able to visit a doctor and receive care for their bodies. This underlying, unsaid assumption has hampered universal health care proposals for decades. The same assumption also impacts proposals for public education and all other social programs. This concept of “merit” as applied to healthcare is the paradigm we must shift before we can have universal health-care.

The “merit/deserving” mindset rests on shaky ground, because for decades now we have demanded that all Emergency Rooms treat anyone who walks in. Clearly, in some remote corner of our brains, we do recognize the social and moral value of providing health care to all. But around this kernel of truth has been erected an edifice of artificial constraints placed by a health insurance industry that seeks the privilege of exploiting the sick and infirm.

The ACA delivered several much-needed improvements to health-insurance. From minimum coverage requirements, to abolishing the idea of pre-existing conditions, to expanding coverage. But it cannot serve as the path to universal healthcare because it never directly attacked this assumption of “worthy” and “unworthy” human beings head on. This is what made it, and still makes it, vulnerable. The ACA exists within the language of the “deserving”, as in we deserve access to health-care at a reasonable price. This weighing of human beings also finds expression in the individual mandate which posits a responsibility to purchase health-care (so as to not become a public charge by entering the emergency room). This is no accident, the ACA’s conceptual structure was taken directly from a Mitt Romney, Heritage Foundation plan. And yet, it has been relentlessly attacked by the right. The lesson we’ve learned is that if we give them an inch they will demand a mile.

If we are to have universal health-care, these modes of thinking need to be well and thoroughly smashed. As does the idea of “market solutions” to health-care and health-insurance.

Any health-care “market” is destined to be dysfunctional or imperfect. Neo-classical economic models assume buyers and sellers have complete information alongside the freedom to choose what they buy and when. There are further assumptions about the ability to defer purchase and the rationality of all actors. Health-care “markets” meet none of these criteria. Enormous information disparities exist between patients and providers. In many cases, health-care decisions are literally a life and death choice that cannot be deferred. Very few among us remain “rational” about cost/benefit when our loved ones are sick. Marginal analysis simply breaks down at these extremes. What is the marginal benefit of your life or your child’s? Everything you own, everything you can borrow? That is the choice many Americans find themselves making, with health-care costs leading to millions of bankruptcies a year.

With most goods or services, consumers can defer gratification to work towards a purchase. Perversely, when patients do defer care, the cost of neglect to their bodies and society overall, is enormous. Sick, fearful human beings cannot be the rational bean-counters neo-classical economics assumes we are. We are rarely in a position to question doctors and hospitals when they recommend a procedure or drug. Recognizing all this, and the fact that drug-makers and doctors have a unique ability to exploit the precarious position of desperate patients, most societies have regulated prices for health-care services. The US does the same, with Medicare setting prices for procedures that become the basis for most health-care pricing.

Health insurance “markets” inherit all this dysfunction and amplify it with other real world wrinkles like moral hazard, biased risk perception and information asymmetry. Limiting the terms of our debate to Republican “market-based” approaches perpetuates dysfunction.

So how do we get out of the trap created by these right-wing frames?

First, healthcare must be acknowledged as a right, and we have to talk about it in those terms. “Access” and “insurance” are not rights. Health care is. We need to keep reminding people that Republicans will take every opportunity to take away their health-care. We need to demonstrate that this right-wing plutocratic agenda is why we want a simple, universal program. Medicare for All, which would be untouchable (and cheaper to boot).

The question we need to answer now is not how we pay for universal health-care, but why we should pay for it. We have to sell the benefits of universal, single-payer healthcare first.

Here’s a story an acquaintance shared with me:

I was on the ACA for several years, and each year my policy was cancelled, but I was eligible for a new one from another company. The trouble was that each new policy had different coverage, doctors, formulary, etc. While they were more or less equivalent, the change in coverage was distressing and uneven, especially when my wife got breast cancer. To avoid disruptive changes in crucial coverage, I came out of retirement and got a job with bullet-proof, stable insurance, which I maintain to this day.

We need to show people a better future. A world where they can continue to go to their doctors and get high quality of care, even if they lose their job and can’t find another one before money runs out. A world where their employer can’t switch to a plan with weaker coverage at the end of the year. A future where an insurance company cannot be deny covering treatment because of fine print, where they don’t have to fear bankruptcy if their child get seriously ill. A world where they can focus on their health rather than worrying about bills. A future where doctors are helping patients get better rather than fighting with insurers to get paid.

Once people see these possibilities, together we will find a way to pay for it. We’ve sent people to the moon, we built the Internet, we can definitely do what every other major developed country does and provide universal healthcare. The good thing is that they are beginning to demand it. Medicare has always been popular. Medicare For All is becoming popular as well.

If we are to succeed, we cannot cede the debate to those who traffic in fear about the future of health insurance companies, or sow panic and fear about Medicare For All. Whether they know it or not, they are undermining the cause of universal health care and parroting right-wing talking points. Democrats who do this should be reminded that this job is best left to the Republican party.

The cruel reality is that tens of millions of Americans already live in a state of fear, about their health and paying for care. Those who have insurance worry about losing it, those who don’t worry about their health. These are the worries we need to concern ourselves with.

We do not have to worry about health insurance companies. If they disappear, they will join a long list of obsolete industries our society no longer relies upon. Buggy whip manufacturers did it, health insurance executives will find a way too. Workers will either find work in M4A, or new jobs they’ll receive transition assistance for.

We can safely ignore self-appointed “experts” who exclaim “How will you pay for it?” about every social program, but scatter like the wind when we spend trillions on wars of destruction. It is perverse that they never worry about cost when blowing up bodies, only when it is time to mend broken ones. It is illogical that they never ask this question when proposing massive tax breaks for the super wealthy. Their behavior reveals their values.

In any case, their question is a ridiculous one. We already know how universal care will be funded, via taxes. That is how we fund social security and how we fund Medicare, that is how we will fund Medicare For All. Taxes should be the one word answer to anyone who asks “how will you pay for it”?

The foundational enterprise of this country presents a conundrum. We declared it self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights. But, for decades we recognized these rights only for some, the “deserving”, the “civilized”. If we are to build a better society, a society focused on allowing people to achieve their full potential, we need to break away from these caveats to our founding creed.

We made a more perfect union when we legislated free public education for all. Let’s do it again by caring for all bodies. Let’s make Medicare For All a reality.

— @subirgrewal

The time for playing games on Medicare For All is over

Abdul El-Sayed said something yesterday that brings into focus the essential dysfunction which is the US health-care system:

Millions of Americans need insulin to survive. The researchers (Frederick Banting, Charles Best and James Collip) who developed insulin in the 1920s knew this and wanted to ensure the medication would remain affordable and safe. They assigned the patent to the University of Toronto for a nominal amount. When asked why they’d done that, Dr. Banting reportedly said “Insulin belongs to the world, not to me.”

On January 23, 1923, an American patent on both insulin and Toronto’s method of making it was awarded to Banting, Collip, and Best. For $1.00 to each, the three discoverers assigned their patent rights to the Board of Governors of the University of Toronto. The application had stressed that none of the other researchers in the past had been able to produce a nontoxic antidiabetic extract. A patent was necessary to restrict manufacture of insulin to reputable pharmaceutical houses who could guarantee the purity and potency of their products. It would also prevent unscrupulous drug manufacturers from making or patenting an impotent or weakened version of this potentially dangerous drug and calling it insulin. — clinchem.aaccjnls.org/…

Which brings us back to our system. It has clearly failed patients in this and many other respects. It has also failed the vision and intention of the researchers whose humanitarian intentions are being undone as pharmaceutical companies try to extract profits out of insulin sales, using every trick in the book.

As we head towards 2020, we know that healthcare will again be a major part of the conversation. Republicans have failed miserably in outlining any alternative approach beyond reactionary slogans like “repeal and replace”. They have made it clear they do not plan to do anything in the approach to 2020, and will not detail any plans past 2020 either.

This is a good thing, because it allows Democrats to set the terms of the debate. A huge majority of Americans supports Medicare For All. This includes 85% of Democrats and a slim majority of Republicans.

The Republican response is, in Trump’s case to call private insurance “beloved” in a tweet that launched a hundred comedy routines:

I don’t know anyone apart from health-insurance executives who “loves” our current exploitative system. Most Americans know they’re being scammed. Republicans have underscored that by literally putting a fraudster in charge of their health-care proposals. There is no compromising with this party which wants to defraud the American people on a massive scale to line the pockets of its donors:

But this is no laughing matter. It is a matter of life and death.

It is a serious political enterprise and if Medicare For All is to be instituted, it will require an enormous push. Over the past three years, public support for the idea has snowballed. To turn this support into a reality we have to:

  • solidify the public support
  • win an election by campaigning on it
  • push Medicare For All through Congress
  • close the door on Republican attempts to undermine it

The wide field of Democratic candidates offer a variety of positions on health-care and the problem of pharmaceutical prices. Jeff Stein over at the Washington Post has done us a favor by synthesizing all the candidates’ positions on healthcare.  He asks seven important questions, and places all the candidates on a scale for each of them.

  1. What should happen to private insurance?
  2. Do you support creating a public option to expand health care, such as allowing people to buy into a state Medicaid program regardless of income?
  3. Do you believe all undocumented immigrants should be covered under a government-run health plan?
  4. Do you support partially expanding Medicare by allowing people ages 50 to 64 to buy into Medicare?
  5. Do you support giving the federal government the ability to negotiate drug prices for Medicare
  6. Do you support importing drugs from other countries?
  7. Do you support having the federal government produce and sell generic drugs to lower drug prices? — www.washingtonpost.com/…

In all the responses, one pattern is clear across all the candidates, Warren and Sanders are the major candidates who are clearest on the challenge, and on the solutions. Most of the other candidates waffle on details, or hem and haw instinctively wary of upsetting the health insurance industry.

This is not the path we should follow. We’ve already gone down that road with the ACA. Republicans amplified every single negative aspect of a plan based on their own Heritage Foundation’s proposal. They called Obama socialist for instituting a market based plan. Insurers have continued to raise premiums, recalcitrant Republican governors have tried to kill the ACA with a thousand cuts, the complexity of the system has made it prone to misrepresentations

That should have taught us a lesson. Complex, half-measures will not do in our current environment. We need to create simple, universal programs and implement them in the way Medicare and Social Security were. We need to do this once, demonstrate the value to the people, and put the fear of god into any politician who tries to undo them. 

We need to convince people that they should jealously protect these programs from any right-wing hack who might try to undermine them.

There are two major candidates who understand this. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The rest seem to be playing around. The time for games has ended.

— @subirgrewal

Will anyone remember Tongo Tongo, Niger, or Yakla, Yemen the way they do “Benghazi”?

Walk down any street in the US and ask people about Tongo, Tongo, Niger, you will get blank stares. Ask them about what happened in Yakla, Yemen and you will get confused looks.

Now, ask them about “Benghazi” and you’ll get an immediate reaction. Why is that?

Because Republicans took the attacks on two US compounds in Benghazi, Libya and held a hundred hearings about it, they made it part of the conversation. They made it news. To the point where there were books and movies made about it. Trey Gowdy practically made a career out of chairing one sub-committee. Americans have the wrong impression of those attacks, they get major facts wrong. For example most will tell you the attack occurred on a “embassy”. The US embassy in Libya is in the capital Tripoli. But they will know something bad happened in Benghazi, and somehow Democrats did something wrong.

Now, go back and ask them about Tongo, Tongo and Yakla. You will get blank stares again. And for that ignorance, you should hold Democrats accountable. Specifically, Democrats in the House and Senate.

The events in Niger and Yakla, Yemen were far more scandalous than anything that happened in Benghazi. The difference is that House Democrats haven’t convened any hearings or empaneled any sub-committees to investigate them. There are rich lines of inquiry that would reveal Trump administration ineptitude which led to the deaths of children and US soldiers.  Instead of following these important threads, the Democratic chairs of powerful Congressional committees (we see you Eliot Engel), spend their time policing the speeches of fellow Democrats at coffee shops.

If Democrats don’t act now, before the 2020 election gets underway in earnest, these scandals will fade entirely. Any opportunity to fully investigate them or hold the Trump White House responsible for these failures will pass.

It’s worth remembering just how terrible these two operations were (and there are others). First Niger:

A senior congressional aide who has been briefed on the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger says the ambush by militants stemmed in part from a “massive intelligence failure.” […]

There was no U.S. overhead surveillance of the mission, he said, and no American quick-reaction force available to rescue the troops if things went wrong. If it weren’t for the arrival of French fighter jets, he said, things could have been much worse for the Americans. — www.nbcnews.com/…

There’s a rich, rich line of inquiry, including video of the recovery of Sgt. Johnson’s body, which is widely understood to have been mutilated. He was mauled so badly that his widow was not permitted to view his body, and partial remains continued to be found five weeks after his death. To make things worse Trump told the widow of one of the soldiers that he “knew what he signed up for”. There are reports that the unit’s mission might not have been properly authorized.

There is an enormous investigation to be undertaken here, and Congress should do it. In 2018, Trey Gowdy said there would be a hearing, but that never happened and the military’s report was quickly buried. Rep. Cummings issued a statement at the time lamenting the lack of hearings. Now that Democrats control all the House committees, special sub-committees should be created to investigate all aspects of the Niger raid.

But where are the Democrats chairing these committees? We have 235 Democrats in the House and we control all the gavels. Most of these Representatives spend hours every day dialing for dollars. Is that the best use of their time? Wouldn’t their time be better utilized getting some answers for Sgt. Johnson’s widow?

Nawar Al-Awlaki, the eight year old American girl who was among nine children killed in Trump’s botched attack on Yakla, Yemen.

There’s more. Worse than the human toll in Niger is the story of the botched operation in Yakla, Yemen. Nine children under the age of 13, including an 8-year old American citizen died in this botched raid ordered days after Donald Trump’s inauguration. The raid was ordered by Trump, who had publicly declared his intentions to murder women and children on the campaign trail.  

“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he said in December. “When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.” — www.thebureauinvestigates.com/…

Trump’s blood-thirsty statements on the campaign trail, and this operation alone should spawn a dozen investigations. There are enormous lines of inquiry to be followed. The disgraced Steve Bannon can be called to testify about his role in this raid. Trump’s buffoon of a son-in-law Jared Kushner can be called to testify before Congress about this action. He can be quizzed about the role his affection and business-dealings with the Saudis played in it.

One American soldier was killed in this botched raid, and three wounded. The intended target was never in the village. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimated that 25 civilians were killed in the attack. Even more outrageously, the decision to authorize this ill-conceived attack on Yakla was made by inept Trump administration officials over dinner. Talk about a made for TV spectacle.

Secretary Mattis supported the mission as presented to him, and the new Trump national security team met for the first time on the night of Jan. 25 to consider it. Present were the president, Vice President Pence, Mattis, then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, CIA Director nominee Mike Pompeo, chief strategist to the President Steve Bannon, and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. Absent was any representative of the State Department, a departure from common practice in past administrations of both parties.

Over dinner, they discussed an upcoming raid to occur that very weekend. — www.nbcnews.com/…

With Kushner alone, hearings could go on for weeks. It’s been revealed that his security clearance was denied by WH officials, and Trump personally intervened in 2018 to grant it. Kushner’s clearance was held up specifically because of his suspicious links to the Saudis. How could such a man be part of planning a military operation in Yemen, where his Saudi associates were engaged in a brutal, inhuman war?

Call all these men before Congress and make each and every one of them testify. Start with Bannon and Kushner. Then Pompeo and Flynn. Then Mattis and Dunford.

Question them about their motives and make them squirm. We all know this raid was planned and authorized for political purposes. They were trying to make a high-profile capture, for political purposes, so they could claim that they had done the equivalent of the Obama administration’s killing of Osama Bin-laden.

There are so many threads to follow. For example, the legal authority for this raid is  at question.

In addition, Yemen was what the national security community called “outside of a declared theater of war,” where the legality and implications of operations were far more sensitive. — www.nbcnews.com/…

Congress alone has the power under our constitution to declare war. How can a drone bombing or military action of this sort be anything but an act of war? If it is not an act of war, it is an assassination, which has been prohibited ever since the Ford administration issued an EO to stop such assassinations. If it’s not an assassination, it’s an extra judicial killing, and again, what authority does the president have to kill people at will without due process? These are questions that must be asked, and they are far, far more important to our security and to human rights than many of the things House Democrats seem to be doing right now.

Then there is the on-going collaboration with the Saudis in their war on Yemen. There are other broad issues at stake here. Including a continuing cover-up of the Trump administration’s drone strike policies.

In the latest step toward rolling back Obama-era rules for targeted killings, President Donald Trump will no longer require U.S. intelligence officials to publicly disclose the numbers of people killed in drone strikes and other attacks on terrorist targets outside of war zones. — www.nbcnews.com/…

During the Vietnam era, we saw Nixon’s administration vastly expand the bombing campaign in South-East Asia. In the Trump administration, we are again seeing a Republican president take a program begun under Bush/Obama, remove all the safeguards and cover up all information about it.

All these threads lie in wait, to be picked up by Democrats in the House, if they have the stomach for it. Instead, they are doing what exactly?

Here we are, almost three months after House Democrats got the gavels we worked our butts off in 2018 to get them. There have been no hearings on these and other incidents. Knowing what we know about Yakla and Tongo, Tongo, why haven’t they spawned a dozen investigations?

People ask sometimes why we’re angry with Democrats. This is why.

— @subirgrewal

We need to do better than “anyone but Trump”.

At times, it seems the Trump years have been a daily assault on our senses, and for those vulnerable enough to be targeted by the police/ICE, then bodies. The impunity our deeply skewed system of justice grants the rich has been bared. Well connected serial child-rapists like Jeffrey Epstein get off with barely a slap on the wrist. People like Paul Manafort, guilty of innumerable crimes, get handed watered down sentences by judges who suddenly discover the injustice of mandatory sentencing rules when the person receiving the sentence looks like them. Meanwhile, the same judges don’t blink twice at sending a poor, black/brown person to jail for years over the theft of some bread.

Illegitimate inherited power has been wielded without reservation in the service of the criminal Trump family. The right’s hypocritical cacophony is has been deafening. We all heard Trump call for Russian help from a rally stage, and now we are expected to forget that happened because his hand-picked attorney general wrote a four page summary. How many teachers have received such notes from the parents of entitled little brats? It is enough to make one despair.

But we cannot. We must keep on doing what will make a material change in the lives of the people of this country.

By November 2020, we will have lived through 1440 days of fear and anxiety for millions. All of us here want anything but Trump. But that is not enough, we need to make something good come out of this. And if we are to win, awe have to show most of our fellow Americans a better vision of America.

“Anyone but Trump” will not do. We need an anti-Trump. Someone who will not only reverse the harm the Trump administration has done, but actually work to bind up the wounds this harmful administration inflicted our country and then salted.

And we do have a better vision. We can do better. We can reverse the decades long trends that have impoverished working people in this country. We can undo the oligarchic powers that are cresting all over the world. When they first began to gather in the 1980s, they took the form of Margaret Thatcher, who sought to break the back of unions with the coal-miner’s strike. In the US, Ronald Reagan did the same during the air-traffic controller’s strike. Not only do we have to undo everything Trump has done, we need to undo the ills of the Bush and Reagan administrations. This is not a new fight, it’s an old fight. The left in the 70s and 80s knew exactly what we were up against, and what we needed to do to prevail.

If we come together, if we show solidarity with all who are hurting and are oppressed, we can make the world a far better place. We do not have to limit our dreams, we do not have to pit one group against another. We can make a better future for all our children. And the people are with us. 

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that 55 percent of Democratic primary voters preferred a candidate who “proposes larger-scale policies that cost more and might be harder to pass into law, but could bring major change on these issues”; 42 percent said they preferred someone who “proposes smaller-scale policies” that would “bring less change.” — www.nytimes.com/..

Goal Thermometer
Bernie 2020: Donate now

The people want us to enact big, bold programs to reverse the material decline in their living conditions. After decades of right-wing hate mongering, most Americans want a better message. We have many great candidates, but for me there is one who embodies the spirit of solidarity we need in this time. One who recognizes the enormous challenges working people face, and is unafraid to champion the bold, progressive programs we need. One who knows that in the face of a 30 year assault by a reactionary right, incrementalism is just not enough.

“No,” he said again, when pressed. “The incremental reform that I support is phasing in ‘Medicare for all.’”

Mr. Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, is not one to compromise on his long-held policy positions, especially his signature stance on health care […] — www.nytimes.com/…

I hope you’ll support him, and his compelling message. We need someone who knows where they came from, and where we have to go.

— @subirgrewal |Cross-posted to TheProgressiveWing.com

Hoyer and others remind AIPAC they don’t value Palestinian’s rights or even their lives

AIPAC is hosting its annual conference in DC, and it has attracted several powerful speakers, many of whom seem eager to flaunt their ability to suppress criticism of Israel’s enormous human rights violations. AIPAC’s deep ties to both Netanyahu and Trump increasingly reveal it to be a right-wing organization antithetical to equal rights.

For over a year, Israeli soldiers have been shooting protesters in Gaza. Just in time for the Israeli election, Netanyahu has begun a large bombing campaign as well. 

None of this stopped Steny Hoyer from ascending the stage at AIPAC’s conference, and declaring “I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically”.

Hoyer declared at AIPAC that he was part of a “bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel”. This is a declaration that he and this “bipartisan coalition” will continue to provide arms and political cover to the Israeli government, no matter what horrors it visits upon Palestinians.

This is meant to tell Palestinians that nothing but absolute surrender to Israel will do.

When Palestinians protest at militarized barriers patrolled by drones and automated machine guns, when thousands of them are wounded by Israeli soldiers, Steny Hoyer has nothing to say.

When hundreds of Palestinian protesters are killed in the West Bank and Gaza, Steny Hoyer has nothing to say.

When the dreams, ambitions and well-being of three generations of Palestinians are stunted by a militarized occupation that has lasted 50 years, Steny Hoyer has nothing to say.

But, when Palestinian unions and activists ask us to show solidarity with their plight. To join them in a peaceful, non-violent call for boycott and sanctions, then Steny Hoyer suddenly discovers his voice and rises against these activists. He rises to bring all his power to bear on silencing them.

A new resolution sponsored by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.) rejects the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS, which tries to apply economic pressure to compel Israel to change its policy toward the Palestinians. Israel’s allies in Congress say the changes BDS supporters want would effectively end Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland. AIPAC backs the resolution, and Hoyer on Sunday threw his full support behind it with a promise to “defeat BDS.” — www.washingtonpost.com/…

Hoyer practices a studious silence when Palestinian are killed, and performative outrage when a fellow Democrat has the temerity to challenge unquestioned support for the Israeli government. Let us recognize this for what it is. It is a mechanism to silence dissent and manufacture consent.

It tells ordinary Americans that their government will punish them if they choose to signal disapproval of Israel’s military occupation by advocating for a boycott or sanctions.

Let us also recognize exactly what the politicians who rush to support AIPAC/Netanyahu are doing here. They are supporting an extreme right-wing party (Likud), that has built an alliance, over several decades with the GOP and fundamentalist evangelicals

Since the very beginning, Israel supporters have appealed to very understandable sympathy for survivors of the holocaust and Jewish people fleeing persecution.

At the same time, a more unsavory strain of Israel apologia has tapped into anti-Arab, anti-Muslim racism. You can hear echoes of it in each and every statement that seeks to paint Israel as civilized/peaceful and its neighbors/Arabs as barbaric/warlike. This is exactly how European settler-colonists sought to portray their interaction with indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa and Australia.  

This hate-driven support was born within the right-wing. Here’s Ayn Rand back in the 1970s:

The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it’s the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are. Israel is a mixed economy inclined toward socialism. But when it comes to the power of the mind—the development of industry in that wasted desert continent—versus savages who don’t want to use their minds, then if one cares about the future of civilization, don’t wait for the government to do something. Give whatever you can. This is the first time I’ve contributed to a public cause: helping Israel in an emergency. — Ford Hall Forum Lecture, 1974 (www.dailykos.com/…)

AIPAC has embraced this thinking from the very beginning, seeking to exploit latent racism and anti-Muslim sentiment to build support for Israel. It still does. Adam Milstein, who sits on AIPAC’s national council has called Rep. Omar a “terrorist”, and claimed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, a popular slur among right-wing Islamophobes (they also used it against Obama). This hate finds full expression in the likes of Pamela Geller.

Rand of course was an unabashed proponent of settler-colonialism. Here she is talking about the US campaigns against Native Americans:

Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent. — Q & A session following her Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974 (www.dailykos.com/…)

You can hear clear echoes of these civilized/barbaric tropes in Hoyer’s speech:

“In a region of dictatorships and dynasties, Israel remains a beachhead of freedom and representative government. In Israel’s democracy, where rule of law is upheld and freedom of expression is assured, Americans see a mirror image of our own.” — www.washingtonpost.com/…

Ayn Rand’s “least developed, primitive nomads” have been updated in Hoyer’s speech to “dictatorships and dynasties”.

Israel, which Rand calls a “beachhead of modern science and civilization” becomes “a beachhead of freedom and representative government” in Hoyer’s phrasing. 

Ayn Rand’s claim that the literal cradle of civilization where humans first practiced agriculture was a “wasted desert” is patently ridiculous. So is Hoyer’s branding of Israel as a representative government.

In his fervent defense of Israeli “democracy”, Rep. Hoyer pointedly ignores the fact that this democracy rules over millions of Palestinians who do not have the right to vote. In Hoyer’s view it seems, you can run a violent military occupation for half a century without compunction and still be called a “democracy”. This ridiculous claim received applause only because the audience has already been primed with the ingrained belief that Palestinians are somehow “unworthy” of basic human rights. An audience that believe that barbarians don’t deserve rights, nor do those with a penchant for dictatorships and dynasties. That they are, somehow, less than human. Therefore it is acceptable to deny them rights for decades on end, they are not ready for these rights, they an immature society/race. If all of this racist logic sounds vaguely familiar, it should be.

Of course, human rights do not have qualifications. You don’t need to be “deserving” to have rights. As Americans our creed is:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.

For centuries, we didn’t extend these “unalienable rights” to Native Americans, black people, or women. We had no claim to being a democracy while we suppressed their rights. Similarly, Israel cannot be called a democracy while it violates the principle of equal rights using various legal sleights of hand.

Israel-Palestine is complex, and evokes deep emotion. But at its core lies this deceptively simple question. Are we for equal rights for all people, or not?

The break among left and right on Israel comes down to fundamentally different views on this question. The right has never cared for equal rights. At its core, the conservative project is about protecting the privileges of the ruling class. As Frank Wilhoit said so succinctly several years ago:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect. crookedtimber.org/…

This is exactly what we see happening in the West Bank.

Settlers are protected by the law, but not bound by it. That is why they can walk into Palestinian fields and burn century-old olive trees and call themselves “civilized”. That is why they can construct settlements on the ruins of Palestinian villages and say “we build”.

Meanwhile, Palestinians are bound by the law, but not protected by it. That is why Israeli bulldozers tear down their houses when they build an extra room for a growing family. That is why Israeli soldiers stand by as violent settlers attack them or their property.

As Americans, we are very familiar with this dynamic. It is an echo of how our own legal structure was used, and often designed, to oppress native americans, black people, women, and every other out-group. We are still working towards a more perfect union, towards a full expression of this realization:

The law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone; and it cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone. — crookedtimber.org/…

The time has come for all Democrats to decide. Are we for equal rights? Or are we for supremacy? I know what my answer is.

— @subirgrewal


By the way, Chuck Schumer also spoke at this right-wing conference.

Not only is Schumer completely misrepresenting what Rep. Omar said here, he’s equating her critique about the influence of money on foreign policy with statements of sympathy towards KKK/Nazis. The GOP’s coddling of KKK/Nazis has spurred murderous attacks on minorities in Charleston, Quebec City, Pittsburgh and Christchurch in just the past few years. Schumer surely knows this. Why is he creating making false comparison between Rep. Omar’s critique and the KKK?

Are we to believe Schumer doesn’t know that he’s playing defense for Trump and Netanyahu? Is Schumer unaware that AIPAC is a Trump/Netanyahu show? Is Schumer blind to the fact that when Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and legitimizes Israel’s takeover of the Golan Heights, that he is undoing decades of US opposition to  territorial acquisition by conquest?

The affinity goes deep. Both leaders [Trump and Netanyahu] share an influential backer — US casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who pushed for, and received, a promise from Mr Trump to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. They share a roughhouse political style and the habit of describing investigations into their conduct as “witch-hunts”. They also both enjoy support from US Christian evangelical leaders for whom biblical prophecy gives the status of Jerusalem elevated importance. — www.ft.com/…

Schumer isn’t the only one making the comparison, other senior Democrats are making other obnoxious comparisons too. Eli Valley explains.

Yes, apparently questioning AIPAC’s influence over US foreign policy is the equivalent of birther-ism and the KKK. Surely Schumer, Hoyer and the others know that Rep. Omar has received numerous death threats. Surely they know that their bad faith criticism of Rep. Omar and kow-towing to right-wing fanatics enables stuff like this:

“This August I will lead what I expect to be the largest delegation ever” to Israel, Hoyer said. “There are 62 freshman Democrats,” he said, and cocked his ear. “You hear me? 62 — not three.” — www.haaretz.com/…

That was a barb aimed at Rep. Tlaib, Rep. Omar and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez who are standing up for equal rights. Hoyer and the people he is leading on this one sided junket are not for equal rights. Worse, Hoyer and others are enabling outrageous attacks by right-wing zealots on these fellow Democrats. By doing that, they are also giving additional aid to the GOP, by shifting the focus away from right-wing extremism.

Concern trolling Medicare for All: NYT begins by saying investors matter, patients and doctors don’t

As it becomes clear that the eventual Democratic nominee will run on Medicare For All, we can expect the policy to be attacked by the concentrated interests who benefit from our current, broken system. The NYT is right there to lend a hand, with a news (not opinion) piece carrying a scary title:

Medicare for All Would Abolish Private Insurance. ‘There’s No Precedent in American History.’

Such a change would shake the entire health care system, which makes up a fifth of the United States economy, as hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and pharmaceutical companies would have to adapt to a new set of rules. Most Americans would have a new insurer — the federal government — and many would find the health insurance stocks in their retirement portfolios much less valuable. […]

While the bills would give relief to insurance industry workers, they would provide no such compensation for investors. — www.nytimes.com/…

The NYT is so unaware of its own biases, they unthinkingly state them upfront. The authors make no bones about the fact that their primary and sole concern is insurer stock prices and investors.

Nowhere do the authors talk about patients, quality of care, or providing health care for everyone. Such things are furthest from their minds. Their only concern is for investors and insurance companies. They quickly dismiss the bills’ provision for workers, after all, they’re only “workers”. Compensation for investors is their primary concern.

Since it’s the NYT, the authors can’t even keep their story straight. They start off by concern trolling about “doing away with an entire industry”, yet two paragraphs later they say the closest analog to the proposed system is Canada, where private health insurers continue to provide supplemental policies, something every M4A proponent has said will be possible. Apparently, we are to be suspicious of M4A because it goes beyond the Canadian system to cover dental-care and prescription drugs.

That would be a good place to discuss how lack of timely dental care leads to enormous health implications, or how exploitative prescription drug makers have become in our current system. Or perhaps say a few words about the impact that worrying about health care has on communities and families.

Nope, all that is immaterial, the only concern worth discussing is that of investors. Tellingly, the authors use the terms “Americans” and “retirement portfolios” when referring to investors. This is done without any qualification, to imply that all Americans have a stake in the stock price of insurers. What they neglect to mention is this. The wealthiest 10% of Americans control 84% of the stock market, as their NYT colleagues explained a few months ago.

A whopping 84 percent of all stocks owned by Americans belong to the wealthiest 10 percent of households. And that includes everyone’s stakes in pension plans, 401(k)’s and individual retirement accounts, as well as trust funds, mutual funds and college savings programs like 529 plans. — www.nytimes.com/…

So all this concern is about the top 10%, and if we’re honest, it’s about the top 1%. Roughly half of Americans own absolutely no stock.

The 99% do require healthcare, but the NYT is too busy carefully analyzing the impact on investor portfolios to care about something as insignificant as the health or bodies or worries of the 99%. 

This hierarchy of concerns is why they provide competing claims about the cost of M4A, but fail to mention the millions of people who will have healthcare for the first time. The discussion is purely “cost”, never benefit.

The best bit is that after concern trolling for several paragraphs, the authors of this “news” article admit that insurers will survive anyways!

The effective takeover of the health insurance industry in the United States would mean a huge hit to the companies’ stocks, although the companies, which have additional lines of business, would most likely survive. […]

“Private plans have been able to evolve and test new models more quickly,” said Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at NORC, a research organization at the University of Chicago. “The political process slows things down.”— www.nytimes.com/…

So hold on, what was all the panicky nonsense above for? Will this kill insurers or not? Make up your damn mind! And let me get this straight, private plans are good because companies are quick to adapt. But somehow they won’t be able to adapt their way into new markets? This is transparent nonsense.

Even worse is what the authors leave unsaid, why these insurers “evolve and test new models”. Thankfully, there was room for one Bernie quote, and he makes clear what’s going on here.

“There is a reason why the United States is the only major country on earth that allows private insurance companies to profit off of healthcare,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview. “The function of private health insurance is not to provide quality care to all, it is to make as much money as possible for the private insurance companies, working with the drug companies.” — www.nytimes.com/…

That’s buried in the middle, while the last word goes to an insurance industry executive who closes with some more concern trolling about how difficult it will be to replace the “infrastructure” of private health insurers. Medicare and Medicaid already cover over 110 million people ,and M4A envisages a steady ramp up. Most of the health insurance “infrastructure” this executive is talking about was built to deny care and reimbursements, because that’s what their incentives are. 

All the ingenuity and talent held in the health insurance industry is presently committed to extracting profits out of patients and medical care providers. Universal, single-payer coverage will change that “infrastructure”. Rather than finding the best way to maximize premiums and minimize reimbursements to doctors, that talent might be redirected towards improving care.

NYT readers are demolishing the paper’s concern-trolling, sadly their responses will never get as much play as the article itself. Here’s one of the best:

There are plenty of precedents in our history of the a government providing a service that wipes out a private industry. Here is one:

In colonial Philadelphia, there was no fire department. Each fire insurance company had its own private fire department. When you bought insurance, you got a medallion to put on your house. If a fire truck from the Green Tree company came to a burning house that had a Penn Mutual medallion, they would let it burn to the ground. After this happened a few times, a municipal fire department was established, a socialized fire department.

Goodbye, private fire departments. I imagine that the people who lived in brick houses griped about paying for the people who lived in wooden ones. I bet you can think of other examples. — nyti.ms/…

There is a staggering amount of hypocrisy required to write and publish articles like this one. Corey Robin does a great job explaining how this duplicity has lead to bad outcomes over and over again:

Pretty much everyone who’s concern trolling about “one-sixth” or “one-fifth” of the economy were unconcerned when we went to war in Iraq or when various trade deals were proposed. Then, the costs were hand-waved away. Of course, those costs were socialized. Workers and soldiers drawn from poorer households paid the price. The Bushes and Cheneys and Trumps of our world got fat on war and globalization.

We spend more than any other nation on health-care, and our outcomes are worse. The system we have simply does not work for most of us. It leads to lower life expectancy at higher costs, as illustrated below.

Universal, single-payer healthcare would have an enormous positive impact on the material and physical well-being of the vast majority of Americans. In stark contrast, a change in the stock prices of health insurers would not impact any except a small sliver of relatively wealthy Americans.

Given those facts, we should expect bad faith attacks on Medicare For All to accelerate. Whenever you hear these attacks, a rule of thumb is to think about what’s in the 99%’s best interest.

Do we want a system that works for all of us, or only for a few?

— @subirgrewal

GOTV Texting campaigns: How they work, how to get involved.

When I started volunteering for campaigns, way back in 2000 and 2004, the only options were in-person canvassing or phone banking. I drove 200 miles to a battleground state in 2004 to campaign for Kerry.  Sometime between 2014 and 2016, I switched over entirely to texting and this now the only kind of campaign volunteering I do.

I’m going to explain how texting campaigns work, and how you can get involved in one for 2020.

But I don’t have a cell phone.

That’s okay, you won’t need one. If you’re reading and commenting on Daily Kos, you can text using the same tools/setup. I generally work on a laptop.

Every texting campaign I’ve worked on has used one of three web-sites to text, Hustle, Relay or Spoke. If you volunteer, you’ll be given some training on the application they’re using. Then you’ll be assigned a shift. Depending on the campaign, this can be anything from 100 to 800 initial texts to send. Names, Numbers and initial texts are pre-loaded on the web-site. Your part is to send each text by pressing enter. This bit needs to be done by a human being, robo-texts aren’t permitted. 

Once you’ve sent all your initial texts, you wait for replies. Depending on the campaign, 5-20% of people you contact will write back. Since all text communication happens through a web-site, your phone number is never visible to the person your texting. You won’t be able to see their number either, campaigns generally hide everything but the first name from text volunteers.

When a reply comes in, you’ll fill out a survey for each reply, and if a response is required, send it (usually using a canned reply). Filling out the survey is nothing more than clicking a few check-boxes in the app. This piece is extremely important because the data gets fed back into the voter file the state/national party maintains.

What if I have questions while I’m texting?

Most texting efforts co-ordinate with volunteers via instant-messaging. You’ll almost certainly be asked to join the campaign’s Slack. This is where staff and volunteer organizers share updates, answer questions, provide technical help and hand out assignments. Slack will be your lifeline to the campaign. 

At different stages of a cycle, campaigns send texts for different reasons.

The most common objective is to ID voters. Here, we are trying to figure out whether we will want to contact them on or before election day to make sure they vote.

Most of our initial lists come from public voter registration records, but you’ll be surprised at how out of date it can be. People who haven’t voted for a Democrat in several cycles, may still be registered as Democrats. Accurate information gathered directly from voters is critical to eventual GOTV efforts and campaigns. I volunteered for campaigns in TX, MS and AL partly because I knew the voter files there were in bad shape. An effective text campaign can improve a voter file very quickly, gathering accurate data on hundreds of thousands of voters. This pays off in future campaigns, up and down the ballot.

Why do Democratic campaigns want to text?

Texting compliments other canvassing efforts because it can reach a younger, less reliable voter pool who may not be canvassed or respond to phone calls. And it scales. On election day, state wide races will send out well over 1M+ texts. A national campaign might do that every single day for months on end.

Remember the senate seat won by Doug Jones in AL? Behind that victory was a top-notch texting campaign with experienced volunteers from across the country turning out voters. We turned out tens of thousands of voters who wouldn’t otherwise have known about the special election. We turned out tens of thousands of Democrats who vote in presidential cycles, but don’t in other years, through gentle encouragement and one-on-one contact.

On election day, the only goal is to get voters to the polls. We’ll work to get polling location information to voters, and help voters who have trouble at the polls or need a ride.

How do I become a good texter?

As with any campaign activity, we need to remember this isn’t about us, it’s about voters and the campaigns’ goals. To be a good texter, you’ll have to understand the goal of the campaign and make that your focus. You’ll have to remember that you’re representing the candidate. On the Bernie campaign, we will often say “Be Like Bernie”, always respectful, always focused on making the world a better place for the many, not the few.

  • Use the canned replies: The pre-loaded responses are produced by volunteers and staff who’ve given it a lot of thought. They are constantly being tested and improved. Wherever possible, use those. It will also save you lots of typing. If you can think of a better response, share it on Slack, and if it’s really good, it’ll be uploaded into the software.
  • Don’t waste a lot of time trying to persuade: Campaigns are almost never looking to persuade. Most veteran texters will tell you it’s virtually impossible to change someone’s mind via text. The best we can do is provide some information to undecided voters. Arguing with contacts is  discouraged.
  • Do not feed the trolls: Most contacts are busy with their own lives and their questions will be to the point. What is the candidate’s position on X? Where do I go to check whether I’m registered to vote? You’ll quickly recognize trolls. Disengage gently and quickly. 
  • Never, ever get into arguments with voters: A small percentage of contacts will try to get you angry, you’ll get #MAGA responses. That comes with the territory. Use the canned responses and move on to the next contact. Do not take any of it personally. If a contact is abusive/rude, most campaigns will instruct you to opt them out.
  • Ask for help when you need it: Well-run text campaigns will have volunteer organizers dedicated to mentoring texters. Most campaigns will also have a dedicated team of volunteers reviewing all conversations with contacts, to provide feedback to texters and prevent problems.
  • Stay on top of your replies: Engagement drops off if contacts don’t hear back on a text within a few minutes. Try to respond promptly. If you’re going to be unavailable for a while, tell the organizers on Slack. 
  • Join Early: If you decide to volunteer a day before election day, you won’t have time to learn the tool, and no one will be in a position to train you. Prominent campaigns will often limit assignments to experienced texters close to election day. 

Why would I ever do this?

If you want to see real political change in this country, this is a great way to make a difference. You can do this kind of volunteer/organizing work from anywhere. You can help campaigns across the country, even from a deep blue state. 

It is more productive than arguing with people on Daily Kos or god forbid Facebook/Twitter.

It’s also fun to text with friends, grab a couple of your closest friends and host a texting party!

How do I get started?

I’m so glad you asked. The only campaigns actively texting at this point in the cycle are for presidential candidates. Go to the campaign website and sign up to volunteer. They’ll have a texting option. Here are a few links: 

Outside of campaigns, there are various groups organizing activists around issues. Here are the organizations I find interesting or have volunteered with at one time or another:

If you want to do work with the Mississippi, Alabama or Florida Democratic party, send me a note. They aren’t actively texting at the moment but there is other work they’re doing in the background and the distributed team organizers are always looking for volunteers.

Hope you found this useful, and maybe we’ll work together on a campaign this cycle.

— @subirgrewal

Connect the dots: Oklahoma City, Charleston, Quebec City, Pittsburgh, Christchurch.

On April 19, 1995, a man drove a truck full of explosives into Oklahoma City. He parked the truck at the Alfred F. Murrah Federal building. At 9:02am, the truck-bomb exploded.

Among the 168 dead were 19 children, including 15 who had been in a day-care center housed in the building. The truck had been parked directly below the center.

The attack was perpetrated by a domestic terrorist. I think most of us know that, but perhaps we don’t fully appreciate, just how domestic, just how American, this strain of terrorism was. And is.

It was later revealed that the perpetrator was carrying with him portions of a deeply racist, xenophobic and anti-semitic novel named The Turner Diaries. The novel describes white supremacists embarking on a campaign of terrorism which includes blowing up the FBI headquarters in the morning using a truck bomb. These attacks are depicted as starting a civil war and a global race war. This book is believed to have inspired numerous terrorist attacks across the US.

A meme posted on Facebook by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asking whether red states or blue states would win a new U.S. civil war has been deleted.

The meme depicting human figures composed of “red” and “blue” states, with King’s state included among the blue ones, was posted on King’s facebook page on Saturday evening.

“Wonder who would win….,” King added to the meme, followed by a smirking emoji.

“Folks keep talking about another civil war; one side has about 8 trillion bullets while the other side doesn’t know which bathroom to use,” the meme reads. — thehill.com/…

The perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing wore a T-shirt emblazoned with Thomas Jefferson’s statement that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”. Jefferson was, of course a slave-labor camp operator and the third president of the US. The same t-shirt also bore the Latin motto of Virginia, Sic semper tyrannis (the words yelled by the man who assassinated Lincoln).

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Murrah building had been targeted previously, in October 1983 by another white supremacist group. That group had plotted to park “a van or trailer in front of the Federal Building and blow it up with rockets detonated by a timer. 

Jamelle Bouie happened to find himself in Oklahoma City and visited the memorial to the victims of the terrorist attack. 

That understanding of McVeigh and Nichols as part of a movement with well-defined goals and a theory of action — which itself fits into a history of ideologically driven hate networks — is important if the mission of the Oklahoma City memorial is education as much as remembrance. And in visiting the site and museum, I was troubled by shallow treatment of that context. Are visitors making the connections between past and present? Do they see the relationship between the violence in Oklahoma City and the shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 or the murder of 11 Jewish worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018? Do they see McVeigh as a singular threat or as an important antecedent to our present-day white power killers?

In the manifesto he released, the accused Christchurch shooter made frequent references to “white genocide,” the idea that nonwhite immigration and mixed-race relationships constitute a genocidal threat to “white” people. He recites the “14 words” — a white supremacist mantra — and elsewhere posted images of a gun with the number 14 written on it. As Jane Coaston noted in Vox, the term “white genocide” was coined by David Lane, a white supremacist responsible for the murder of a Jewish radio host in 1984. He, like McVeigh, was also inspired by William Pierce. Again, the museum devotes some space to this movement and those ideas — copies of Pierce’s books “Hunter” and “The Turner Diaries” are on display — but they are overshadowed by exhibits that focus on the experience of the bombing and its aftermath. — www.nytimes.com/…

This is as it should be, the memorial is to the victims, not to the perpetrator’s ideology. But Jamelle Bouie has a point. For too long, most of us have failed to grapple with the implications of the hateful ideology that has driven these people. With how much a part of this country’s history it is.

That failure is why so much American and Western media seems oblivious to the latent racism baked into their coverage:

That failure to deal honestly and forthrightly with the origins of this hate allows it to rear itself over and over again. It is why so many Americans don’t even bat an eyelid when a religious leader tells an entire auditorium that he wished more of them had guns to “end those Muslims before they’d walked in […]”.

That failure to deal honestly and forthrightly with the origins of this hate allows it to rear itself over and over again.

The far-right terrorist who killed 77 in Norway in 2011 (many of them children), frequented hate forums that prominently feature The Turner Diaries. Aspects of his public statements allude to that work, which was published in the 1970s. We have been exporting this form of hate a lot longer than Donald Trump has been around. We can go back further:

[Madison] Grant’s purportedly scientific argument that the exalted “Nordic” race that had founded America was in peril, and all of modern society’s accomplishments along with it, helped catalyze nativist legislators in Congress to pass comprehensive restrictionist immigration policies in the early 1920s. His book went on to become Adolf Hitler’s “bible,” as the führer wrote to tell him. Grant’s doctrine has since been rejuvenated and rebranded by his ideological descendants as “white genocide” (the term genocide hadn’t yet been coined in Grant’s day). In an introduction to the 2013 edition of another of Grant’s works, the white nationalist Richard Spencer warns that “one possible outcome of the ongoing demographic transformation is a thoroughly miscegenated, and thus homogeneous and ‘assimilated,’ nation, which would have little resemblance to the White America that came before it.” This language is vintage Grant. — www.theatlantic.com/…

The terrorist who struck the mosques in Christchurch said he wanted to spark a conflict in the US over guns. The Turner Diaries contains just such a plot. This dangerous rhetoric over guns has been fanned by Republicans for years. It’s vividly present in Steve King’s post above, in the form of “8 trillion bullets”. It’s why Trump talked about what “2nd amendment people” might do.

It is why so many Americans don’t even bat an eyelid when a religious leader tells an entire auditorium that he wished more of them had guns to “end those Muslims before they’d walked in […]”.

That isn’t even the worst of it. The man Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed for president uses the same rhetoric from the White House. Rhetoric that fits in neatly with the febrile “race war” rantings which inspired the terrorist who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing. Rhetoric laced with threats.

 “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of Bikers for Trump,” Trump told Breitbart in the interview, which he later tweeted. “I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” […]

The president later deleted his tweet as news began to trickle in of a mass shooting in New Zealand that left at least 49 worshiping Muslims dead on Friday. While there are no signs that the suspect was a close follower of Trump, he did mention the U.S. president once in his rambling manifesto, calling Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Trump has previously banned those from majority-Muslim countries from coming into the U.S., keeping families apart under a racist policy. — www.huffpost.com/…

And this rhetoric carries with it a clear message for white supremacists.

— @subirgrewal

Who we think about when we think about foreign policy

It may not always seem this way, but foreign policy should be about people. Which people it’s about, determines what our foreign policy is.

When our foreign policy revolves around powerful people representing enormous business interests, it takes on a particular form. When it’s focused on relatively powerless everyday people across the world, it takes on a different form.

When I think about foreign policy, I try to focus on people without much power. I work to identify with those who find themselves buffeted by enormous forces outside of their control. Perhaps it is a bit easier for me because I am a first-generation immigrant. When I see pictures of people in the Middle East killed by bombs or bullets made in the US, I think of my own family. It is inescapable, because they look like me and my kids.

So when one of those kids grows up to become an American legislator, when she begins to exercise some influence over US foreign policy, I am both proud of my country, and grow more confident that we will be centering the right people when it comes to our foreign policy. 

This is one of the reasons having Rep. Ilhan Omar in Congress is so remarkable. She is one of these people, a child whose life was buffeted by war, and now she is in a position to influence US foreign policy. Rep. Omar wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post today that expresses my sentiment perfectly: 

Ilhan Omar: We must apply our universal values to all nations. Only then will we achieve peace.

[…] I believe in an inclusive foreign policy — one that centers on human rights, justice and peace as the pillars of America’s engagement in the world, one that brings our troops home and truly makes military action a last resort. This is a vision that centers on the experiences of the people directly affected by conflict, that takes into account the long-term effects of U.S. engagement in war and that is sincere about our values regardless of short-term political convenience.

This means reorienting our foreign affairs to focus on diplomacy and economic and cultural engagement. At a time when we spend more on our military than the next seven countries combined, our global armed presence is often the most immediate contact people in the developing world have with the United States. National security experts across the political spectrum agree that we don’t need nearly 800 military bases outside the United States to keep our country safe. — www.washingtonpost.com/…

In her Op-Ed, Rep. Omar goes on to highlight the disastrous regimes we are presently supporting, including the Saudis and the UAE who are waging a terrible war on the Yemeni people.

It has historically been difficult to get Americans to concern themselves with foreign policy. We are a large, continental power with enormous considerations within our borders. We also have a strong isolationist streak, most years a majority of Americans say we should pay less attention to problems overseas. Sadly, this public disengagement often means that unelected interests exercise greater control over our actual foreign policy, resulting in even more military adventures.

For others among us, foreign policy is secondary. We’ve all run across people who believe foreign affairs are a distraction from “other priorities”, like “winning”. If questioning the actions of our military overseas becomes a hinderance to “winning”, the implication is that we should accommodate militarism and little wars. This is a narrow vision, where concern for people ends at our borders, or when it might complicate our short-term political ends. It fails to offer solidarity to the rest of the world.

The sad fact is that this sort of near-sightedness is both misguided and dangerous.

Every dollar we spend on destruction overseas is a dollar stolen from progressive initiatives at home.

Every time our military might is flaunted or deployed to protect the interests of oil interests, we harm the climate.

Every time the agenda of the Military Industrial Complex gets a pass because it only impacts people “over there”, our military families face greater risk and gun control at home becomes more distant.

Every time a corrupt plutocrat like Erik Prince, Dick Cheney or Jared Kushner uses American power to serve a foreign despot, the interests of ordinary people suffer. The plutocrat receives favors, the price is paid by people like us across the world.

We are the pre-eminent super-power in the world. We have military bases across the world. In 2017, US special operations troops deployed in over 130 countries. Every day, our military runs a global aerial bombardment that has cost tens of thousands of lives directly and hundreds of thousands by extension. This is not an exaggeration. Investigative journalists have confirmed almost 7,000 drone strikes.

Many of these strikes have been in Somalia, where Rep. Omar was born. The US has engaged in military operations in Somalia since the early 1990s, after the overthrow of Mohammed Siad Barre which precipitated the Somali Civil War. Rep. Omar’s family is among those uprooted by that war. This makes her a powerful and credible spokesperson for all the people directly and indirectly impacted by our militarist foreign policies and her journey all the more significant. 

This question of how the United States engages in conflict abroad is deeply personal to me. I fled my home country of Somalia when I was 8 years old from a conflict that the United States later engaged in. I spent the next four years in a refugee camp in Kenya, where I experienced and witnessed unspeakable suffering from those who, like me, had lost everything because of war. — www.washingtonpost.com/…

When we think of foreign policy, we must keep the interests of people like the 8-year old Ilhan Omar foremost. We must think of her well-being, and her future. We must think of what she can become, and what she can do for her community and the world.

We must not allow ourselves to be beguiled by those seeking to prop up illegitimate regimes, or stoke war for selfish ends. If we allow our foreign policy to be driven by the Dick Cheneys, Erik Princes and Jared Kushners of the world, we will have done this world and generations to come a great wrong.

If we allow these interests to govern how we interact with the world, eventually our own democracy will atrophy and we too will succumb to the same predatory forces that have brought harm and ruin upon large swaths of the world. To avoid such an outcome, we as citizens need to consciously consider who we think about when we think about foreign policy. Think about 8-year old Ilhan Omar.

— @subirgrewal