DNC lawyers say it can pick candidates in smoke-filled back-room

For the DNC, the fallout from the presidential primary is not yet over.

In the conduct and management of the affairs and procedures of the Democratic National Committee, particularly as they apply to the preparation and conduct of the Presidential nomination process, the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and even handedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and even-handedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process. — Democratic party charter/by-laws

That section of the charter is the subject of a class-action lawsuit by Sanders supporters and DNC donors. The plaintiffs claim the DNC violated its own by-laws and was not impartial during the 2016 presidential primary race.

The DNC’s lawyers had an interesting defense at the initial hearing:

“We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way,’” Bruce Spiva, lawyer for the DNC, said during a court hearing in Carol Wilding, et al. v. DNC Services Corp., according to court filings exclusively obtained by TYT Politics. […]

In one of the more strange defense rationales, Spiva evoked baptism to suggest the term “impartial” is too vague and open-to-interpretation to be enforced legally.

“You have a charter that says you have to be — where the party has adopted a principle of even-handedness, and just to get the language exactly right, that they would be even-handed and impartial, I believe, is the exact language. And, you know, that’s not self-defining, your Honor. I mean that’s kind of like, you know, saying, Who’s a Baptist?”

— Jordan Chariton (TYT) on Medium

Now, as an occasional cigar-smoker, I object to the stereotype, but I’ll let it slide, this one time.

The attorney for the plaintiffs pointed out that DNC officials, including chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz repeated the impartiality claim on television numerous times.

The DNC’s lawyers aren’t addressing that. Instead, they’re trying to undermine the expectation of impartiality itself. Claiming that it is too vague and not enforceable.

“There’s no right to not have your candidate disadvantaged or have another candidate advantaged. There’s no contractual obligation here . . . it’s not a situation where a promise has been made that is an enforceable promise,” Spiva said.

— Salon

The DNC lawyer’s argument is this: The charter is crafted in such a way that what appears to the average person to be a promise of impartiality isn’t one at all. It’s all an illusion. What Democrats have is just a “political promise”.

The most recent court hearing on the case was held on April 25, during which the DNC reportedly argued that the organization’s neutrality among Democratic campaigns during the primaries was merely a “political promise,” and therefore it had no legal obligations to remain impartial throughout the process. — Newsweek

An uncharitable view would be that the actions of DNC officials were indefensible, and so this is the only defense their legal team could come up with.

Let’s be charitable for a moment. Maybe this is just a legal tactic, the quickest way for the DNC’s lawyers to get this case dismissed. Let’s accept their claim that there’s no “enforceable promise” so we don’t waste the court’s time trying to figure out whether or not the DNC was actually impartial. Let’s agree with them that impartiality is undefined, and there’s no measurable standard to apply to the DNC official’s actions.

Now, let’s take this line of thought to its conclusion. The DNC claims:

  • the charter authorizes them to pick a candidate in a proverbial cigar smoke-filled backroom.
  • “impartiality” is so vague a concept that DNC officials can, with impunity, take actions to favor whichever candidate they wish.
  • impartiality is a “political promise”, and we all know those are worth squat amiright?

What then, is the purpose of the entire primary charade? To give Democrats the illusion that they have an actual say in who heads the ticket? To lull us into believing Democrats actually stand for democracy?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what calls for “unity” look like in this light?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what this argument does to their credibility in the future?

Does anyone at the DNC understand what happens when politicians break a “political promise”?

Organizers who worked on the Sanders campaign have mobilized to help counterparts in the UK organize and canvass for the snap elections called by Theresa May (the conservative PM) for June 8th. In the process, they’ve brought a new generation of tools to UK elections, including peer-to-peer texting and distributed phone-banking. At the same time, there’s a renewed push for door-to-door-canvassing, GotV operations via training sessions and helping volunteers from safe constituencies travel to marginal constituencies.

Momentum alone has nearly 24,000 members and 200,000 supporters. Were all of them to get out and canvass voters, Labour could win the election, the group maintains.

Uyterhoeven agrees. Corbyn’s campaign, like Sanders’s, is a people-powered one, she said, and there is a lot more interest than the traditional system can handle.

“Every training we’ve held, over 100 people have showed up. When we launched the carpool website [trialled in the Stoke byelection], we had 20,000 unique visitors within 18 hours. Imagine trying to talk to all these people without the tools in place.”

— The Guardian

The Momentum volunteer network has helped register large numbers of new voters in the UK, largely using social media:

In the UK, voters can register online and most do:


A last minute surge in people registering to vote has seen a quarter of a million young people under 25 years old sign up on the last possible day before the general election. — The Independent

That’s almost double the number of under-25s who registered on the last day prior to the Brexit referendum or the last general election. As in the US, younger voters tend to skew towards Labour, while older voters are more aligned with the conservatives.

Labour has enjoyed a surge in the polls, closing much of its deficit with May’s Conservative Party. Current polling suggest the Tories still enjoy a lead between 6% or 12 points. The national polling doesn’t translate into an precise margin in parliament since MPs are elected from discrete constituencies. Yet, the Tories should be worried, as Martin Boon who heads ICM Unlimited (a pollster) said:

“Nerves are now certainly jangling in Conservative Central Office, with a YouGov poll last weekend showing a drop to only a 5-point lead, before easing to a 7-point lead yesterday. Survation, with a phone poll this morning split the difference with a 6-pointer for GMTV.

This, from an ICM 22-point Conservative lead just three weeks’ ago.”

— The Guardian

Among other parallels with the US election is Corbyn’s promise that Labour would raise the minimum wage to 10 GBP an hour, instituting a living wage. The current minimum for those under 25 is 7.50. Some of the discussion will seem alien to Americans, including a discussion on whether or not more police officers should be armed. Less than 10% of London’s police force carries firearms, opting to police “by consent” rather than force.

More on the Corbyn/May “debate” below:

Theresa May has refused to debate Corbyn head to head thus far. However, she did agree to a back to back interview with Jeremy Paxman at the BBC. Prior to the interviews, each faced questions from a live studio audience.

The Guardian live-blogged the event and provided this synopsis:

By now it is clear that this “debate” (like most TV election events of this kind) won’t really have changed very much in the campaign. Generally it is being seen as a bit of a draw. (See 10.43pm.) And it probably did not even contain a memorable moment that people will be talking about for months or years to come because it was particularly revealing. If there has been one so far this election, it may be Theresa May’s “nothing has changed” press conference near-meltdown (although, if May does win a decent majority, that may well be forgotten by the end of the summer).

Yet the May v Corbyn showdown did illustrate how the campaign is evolving. At the start of the campaign, some of Jeremy Corbyn’s critics thought he would be so awful that the Labour campaign would collapse. Well, they have been comprehensively proved wrong, and this evening he looked relaxed and confident. His actions and pronouncements from the 1980s continue to haunt him, but, as the BBC’s Nick Robinson suggests (see 10.43pm), it is better to have the toughest questions relating to what you said in the past than what you are saying now. […]

And May seems to have changed a bit, too. When she called the election, her campaign seemed to revolve entirely around offering “strong and stable” leadership. The social care U-turn has torn the legs off that strategy, and tonight she barely, if at all, used the phrase. She also chose not to deploy some of the implausible lines about Corbyn she has used previously (like the false claim that he would raise income tax to 25p in the pound). Instead, we got a more humble and grounded PM, who sounded evasive on social care and winter fuel payments, but robust on Brexit, which many people will like.

— The Guardian

Columnists from ITV and the Financial Times also chimed in:

Corbyn was asked about his personal political positions, many of which did not make it into the Labour party’s election manifesto. This included his opposition to nuclear weapons and opposition to the British monarchy. Among other notable moments, Corbyn would not say whether he would order a drone strike against a terrorist organizing an attack on the UK. He said it was a completely hypothetical question and he would not answer it without knowing the specific facts. He was asked about his engagement with the IRA in the 80s.

May was grilled about her social policies and funding levels for the NHS, some of this came from the audience and many audience members weren’t satisfied with her responses, laughing at her answers on occasion. Paxman had very pointed questions on several of May’s policy reversals, including the decision to call an early election after several statements saying she wouldn’t.

The Brexit vote was discussed at various points, with both May and Corbyn saying they will honor the results of the referendum.

The smaller and regional parties (LibDems, SNP, Greens and UKIP) were left out of the joint TV interview.

What Tolkien can tell us about Merkel’s comment on Europe “fighting for its own destiny”

Mrs Merkel said she wanted friendly relations with both countries as well as Russia but Europe now had to “fight for its own destiny”. […]

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” Mrs Merkel told a crowd at an election rally in Munich, southern Germany. […]

The relationship between Berlin and new French President Emmanuel Macron had to be a priority, Mrs Merkel said. — BBC

There are multiple threads here. Clearly EU allies were not pleased with the current US administration’s unwillingness to commit to the Paris accords. Nor were they thrilled by the Trump administration’s protectionist rhetoric and railing against German car-makers.

But perhaps the most serious of the breaches was President Trump’s unwillingness to affirm his administration’s commitment to NATO’s Article 5. This is the collective defense portion of the NATO treaty. It obligates all members to respond to an attack on any one member. It was first invoked after the 9/11 attacks, though NATO member states have taken collective defense measures numerous times, thrice at Turkey’s behest after various wars in the Middle-East. More recently collective defense measures are in place after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and concern among Eastern European NATO member states.

The US is treaty-bound to honor its NATO obligations. However, with sole command of the armed forces, the president would decide whether and what resources to commit. When it comes to our nuclear arsenal, the president’s authority is virtually absolute.

So when Angela Merkel says she does not believe Europe can rely on the US, she is at least partly thinking of the scenario below. If she calls for aid, will the US answer?

When troops are outside Berlin’s walls, or missiles in flight, will Donald Trump answer the call? This is an critical question for someone like Merkel, who is tasked with ensuring the safety of over 80 million people, and over 500 million if you include the entire EU. It is a serious responsibility.

Back in March, I’d posted a lengthy diary about the implications of a Trump presidency on nuclear proliferation. For decades, our allies have relied on us and abstained from developing nuclear weapons. This has limited the spread of nuclear weapons.

If Europeans don’t believe they can rely on the US nuclear umbrella, the next obvious step is to develop a credible deterrent of their own. With Brexit imminent, this will not be the UK’s program. It is partly in this light that any discussions between France and Germany must be seen.

But it’s not just Germany or Italy or Poland who are reconsidering what they thought they knew about the US. Other major allies like Turkey, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea will too. Canada is probably still covered, but most Central/South American states have long been skeptical the US will respond to its mutual defense obligations in the Rio treaty. Will they come up with a deterrent of their own?

Will America First end up meaning America alone?

UK Conservatives have lost 16 points edge vs Labour. Corbyn connects wars to terrorism.

On April 18, Theresa May called a general election in the UK, dissolving parliament three years before its term ended. Elections are scheduled for June 8. Back in April, Conservatives led Labour by 21% in opinion polls and looked headed for a landslide win. Since then:

Labour = Red | Conservatives = Blue | LibDems = Orange | UKIP = Purple | SNP = Yellow | Greens = Green

Labour (red) has been gaining momentum as the Conservatives (blue) and Liberal Democrats (orange) have trended down. Support for the far-right UK Independence Party (purple), has collapsed. 

Corbyn has been needling May for her refusal to debate him:

The election was called by May to solidify her party’s hold on Parliament ahead of what are going to be tense negotiations over Brexit. But other issues have begun to come to the fore, including welfare policies, housing and now terrorism. Today, Corbyn gave a remarkable speech on terrorism, resuming the political campaign after a three day suspension following the Manchester bombing:

The Labour leader said there must be more money for law enforcement, as he suggested Britain’s intervention in wars abroad had fuelled the risk of terrorism at home.

“Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home,” he said.

However, Corbyn pitched his intervention carefully, saying he was clear that terrorists were entirely to blame for their own actions but that governments must also examine the effectiveness of their policy decisions.

“No rationale based on the actions of any government can remotely excuse, or even adequately explain, outrages like this week’s massacre,” he said, speaking in Westminster.

“But we must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working. We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.” — Guardian

This week, the US confirmed that an airstrike in March had killed over 100 civilians, today reports suggest 33 children were killed in another coalition airstrike.

Corbyn’s is not a new position, in 2003 he warned about joining the Iraq war:

Hmmmm maybe people should listen to this guy more pic.twitter.com/DTu2S1LNxX— Hussain (@Chemzes) May 25, 2017

Since the Manchester terror attack, there’s been an ongoing debate about whether UK police and intelligence agencies did enough to investigate the bomber. Community members reported the bomber to authorities multiple times. He was also banned from a mosque for his pro-ISIS views.

— Cross-posted to NotMeUs.org | @subirgrewal

Cal Democratic party chair elected by 62 delegate margin, is being contested.

There continue to be several fissures in the Democratic party as competing factions jockey for party positions and the future direction of the party. One of those fissures opened in dramatic fashion at the California Democratic party’s convention last weekend. We had a really good diary recounting a view from on the ground at the convention, where Los Angeles County chair Eric Bauman was elected to the state party chairmanship with a slender margin of 62 votes, out of over 3,000 cast.

The saga continues because Bauman’s opponent, Kimberly Ellis has not conceded the election and there is a review underway:

Kimberly Ellis

“I will not concede this race until we have validated the results,” Ellis said. […]

Ellis said she met with California Democratic Party staff and executives and “shared with them some concerns” with some of the votes that were cast. Ellis supporters are questioning whether all the votes came from credentialed party delegates.

“One of the things that party cannot be is a party that’s just like Trump and the Republicans,” Ellis told the crowd. “A party that operates in closed rooms, smoked-filled rooms, behind curtains, in secrecy and shadow. It is time for this party to be a transparent party.” […]

Ellis was the director of Emerge California, a Bay Area nonprofit organization that trains Democratic women to run for office.

Though Ellis supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary, former Bernie supporters, including the National Nurses Union and Our Revolution backed Ellis and she emerged as an unexpectedly strong challenger.

Bauman was the state party’s vice-chair for the prior term. When announcing his candidacy, he said the party needed to welcome fresh voices. But news that Bauman’s consulting firm received $12,500 a month from the pharmaceutical industry to help defeat Prop 61 didn’t help him win over progressives. Prop 61 would have capped prices paid by the state of California for drugs at levels the VA pays, though there was a lot of discussion about secondary effects of the bill.

In an interview with The Real News, former Sanders-surrogate and Our Revolution board-member Nina Turner discussed what happened at the CA convention:

It’s a very influential position and it became the target, or the focal point, of what is really an ongoing civil war in many ways between the Sanders forces, who describe themselves as “progressive,” they want single-payer healthcare, Medicare for all, $15. But most importantly, they don’t want to raise money from billionaires. They want to raise money from the general public, and that’s a point of great division in the party right now, and it was a point of great division at the California convention. […]

RoseAnn DeMoro, the leader of the nurses, said something in her speech during the convention that I think is worth noting.

What she said was, there is not going to be consensus or unity for the sake of unity; that the Democrats have to show that they really are the party of the people. And that message is not just for California Democrats; that message is for the DNC as well […]

But what I will give the California Democrats credit for, and maybe it’s because the Berniecrats were such a force, is that there was no illusion there. Folks knew that there was tension in the room. They knew that it was a fight between these so-called establishment Clinton Democrats and people who are more on the progressive side. That wasn’t hid. […]

But the beauty of this, Paul, is even though she lost – and I want our viewers to understand this – sister Fantasia, the singer, said it this way; she said, “Sometimes you’ve got to lose to win again” – the fact that she only lost by 62 votes says a lot. The fact that the establishment-backed candidate, who had every big name, had more money, more influence, more power only won by 62 votes, that the California Democratic Party is really split between the progressive wing and the establishment wing says that progress has been made.

Sanders backers had won the majority of elected positions in California’s party re-organization, but these posts accounted for only a third of delegates, the remaining two thirds were Democratic County Central Committee appointments and elected officials along with their appointees.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Ellis had this to say about the review of ballots underway:

It is critical that the delegation has confidence in the outcome of this Chair’s race so that we might move forward, irrespective of whomever wins. Should the election results stand, we will congratulate Eric on his well earned success.

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, the new party leadership believes it can lay concerns to rest after a review of all ballots which is currently underway:

Eric Bauman

“They’re not redoing anything,” said Steve Maviglio, a Democratic strategist hired Sunday by the party to handle communications about the controversy. “They’re just literally looking at the ballots.”

In a lengthy, nine-point email sent to reporters Tuesday, Maviglio dismissed speculation about “ballot stuffing” and other ways the election might have been rigged. He said that the ballot boxes “are constantly monitored” during voting, with observers from each side, and that they are opened with those observers present.

The delegates’ ballots, which Maviglio said were counted twice on Saturday, are not secret.

“Any suspected problem ballot can be individually identified, tracked and segregated from the rest of the vote,” he said. “For this reason, the proverbial bad apple cannot spoil the bunch.”

Maviglio seems to be pretty confident the review will validate Bauman’s win, though he does seem to have a bee in his bonnet about the National Nurses Union:

Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org | @subirgrewal

Trump said to “take out the families”. Coalition strike kills 80 ISIS “relatives”, 33 children.

Today, the AFP is reporting that coalition airstrikes in the Syrian town of Meyadeen killed 80 people, 33 of whom were civilians. They’re being described as “relatives of ISIS fighters”.

A US-led coalition air strike on the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen early Friday killed at least 80 relatives of Islamic State group fighters, a monitoring group told AFP.

“The toll includes 33 children. They were families seeking refuge in the town’s municipal building,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“This is the highest toll for relatives of IS members in Syria,” Abdel Rahman told AFP. — Daily Mail 

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said:

“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. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families,” Trump said.

Trump said he would “knock the hell out of” ISIS, and criticized the U.S. for “fighting a very politically correct war.”

Intentionally targeting civilians, including “families of terrorists”, is a war crime.

Yesterday, the Pentagon’s investigation confirmed what we suspected back in March, a US airstrike had caused a building collapse which killed over 130+ civilians.

A U.S.-led airstrike carried out on a building in Mosul in March detonated a cache of Islamic State explosives, killing more than 100 Iraqi civilians, the Pentagon said Thursday.

An unclassified summary of the U.S. military investigation into the March 17 incident determined that the 500-pound bomb used in the strike set off additional explosives that were placed in the building by the Islamic State, causing the collapse of the structure.

The blast killed two Islamic State snipers and 105 civilians, including four in an adjacent house in western Mosul’s al-Jadida district, the summary said. Thirty-six additional civilians who were allegedly killed could not be accounted for, because of “insufficient evidence to determine their status or whereabouts.” In the days after the strike, some reports said that more than 200 bodies were pulled from the rubble. — WaPo

The investigation also debunked the spin Gen. Townsend gave a week after that strike, when he claimed civilians had been intentionally positioned to serve as shields. Prior to that, coalition forces had claimed a car bomb took out the building. Since there was no car-bomb crater, that explanation was quickly challenged by reporters: 

In addition to determining the cause of the building collapse, the investigation also determined that the mass of people killed in the strike had been invited to take shelter on the building’s lower floors by a neighbor. The Islamic State also warned them to leave, according to locals interviewed during the investigation. This account is at odds with what the U.S.-led coalition’s top officer suggested 11 days after the strike, during a Pentagon news briefing. At the time, Gen. Stephen Townsend said that it appeared that the civilians were herded there by the Islamic State and were being used as shields. — WaPo

Meanwhile, Airwars and Foreign Policy have confirmed that the US’s coalition partners have killed at least 80 civilians in airstrikes. But none of the coalition partners will acknowledge this.

Cross-posted to NotMeUs.org | @subirgrewal

Majority of Democratic Senate & House caucus co-sponsor $15 minimum wage bill.

Full video is below, the bill would raise minimum wage to $15 by 2024 and pegs it to inflation.

The bill has 30 co-sponsors in the Senate and 152 in the House. Bobby Scott (VA-3) who is introducing the bill in the House, noted that there has been no increase in the federal minimum wage for 10 years.

In the Senate, Patty Murray (WA) and Bernie Sanders (VT) will introduce the bill, they have 30 co-sponsors which is a majority of the Democratic caucus in the Senate. In the house, Robert “Bobby” Scott (VA-3) and Keith Ellison (MN-5) are introducing a companion bill which has the support of 152 members, again a strong majority of the Democratic caucus.

A majority of the Senate Democratic caucus is backing a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 just two years after a comparable bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) received scant support from his colleagues.

Thirty of Sanders’ colleagues in the caucus joined the former presidential candidate in formally introducing the bill on Thursday, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. By contrast, just five senators co-sponsored Sanders’ 2015 bill raising the minimum wage to $15.

— HuffPo

Brittany Butler works in Union station and volunteers with Good Jobs Nation. Her employer is a federal contractor and she spoke about the fact that she and many other workers earning less than $15 an hour though they’re working for the Federal government.

Senator Murray (WA) spoke about constituents in her state who are working multiple jobs to provide the basics for their families. She spoke about the number of women, an black and hispanic working women who will see their lives improve with this bill.

Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Chuck Schumer (NY) also spoke. Hoyer had an interesting line about employers “pretending” to pay their workers when they pay starvation wages. Most of the speakers (including Pelosi) said they would make the rise to $15 immediate, if they thought it would pass.

Vice is also covering the bill and Carl Horowitz over at the Capital Research Center has a lengthy piece exploring the legislative background of the $15 minimum wage billwhich is worth a read.

Cross-posted to NotMeUs.org | @subirgrewal

50 Years of Occupation: A disaster foretold

This year will mark 50 years since the Six-day war, which began with an Israeli surprise attack on Egyptian and Jordanian forces. When it ended on June 11, 1967, Israeli military forces had occupied the entire West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. Israel still controls the lives of millions of Palestinians living in these areas under its military occupation. Two generations have been born and come of age without a voice in the state that controls their movements and surveils their every activity.

The Washington Post is doing a three part series that looks at the daily lives of Palestinians living under the Israeli military occupation. The first installment looks at the life of a Palestinian construction worker, who endures a 3-4 hour commute each day, complete with daily humiliation at an Israeli checkpoint. Taweel is 30 years old and has lived his entire life under occupation:

Like Taweel, four of every five Palestinians have never known anything but the occupation — an evolving system by which the Israeli military and intelligence services exert control over 2.6 million Arabs in the West Bank, with one system for Palestinians, another for Israelis. […]

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refers to it, when he speaks of it at all, as “the so-called occupation.” Some of his fellow citizens say there is really no occupation, because all the Land of Israel was awarded to the Jews by God. Other Israelis argue that Gaza is no longer occupied, because Israel unilaterally withdrew from the coastal strip a decade ago.

Whatever it is called, it appears to be never-ending.  — WaPo

Meanwhile despite the “non occupation” of Gaza, Israel controls it’s electricity (as it does everything else gong in or out of Gaza. Gazans receive about four hours of electricity each day, but even that is being cut by Israeli authorities. The enforced impoverishment of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, has forced many Palestinians who can, to leave. Those who stay must contend with the daily indignities of a military occupation that has run for half a century. 

As Trump toured Israel, hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners marked the 6th week of their hunger strike:

Trump arrives on the 36th day of the mass hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners. The prisoners’ physical condition is starting to deteriorate, and the Israel Prison Service is reportedly starting to transfer dozens of prisoners to hospitals around the country.

At this stage, according to the Israel Medical Association, the hunger strikers are beginning to suffer from dizziness, weakness, tremors, unsteadiness on their feet, difficulty standing, arrhythmias, chills and more. As from the fifth week of a hunger strike, an individual is likely to show signs of vertigo, uncontrolled vomiting, and difficulty moving their eyes, which may also twitch.

The Palestinian hunger strikers are suffering through these symptoms in order to try and improve basic conditions in prison, including access to public telephones (which all other prisoners have), family visits, adequate and humane health services, improvement in conditions of transport between prisons, air conditioning, an end to administrative detention, and more. — +972mag

In Jerusalem, right-wing Israelis paraded through the streets in their “March of Flags”, an annual celebration of the conquest and occupation of East Jerusalem. This year, as in prior years, there were counter-protests by left-leaning activists which were violently suppressed by Israeli police who arrested journalists as well.

Peaceful, non-violent protests against the occupation happen every day in Israel and Palestine. There is rarely any reporting on it. For example, 300 Palestinians, Israelis and diaspora Jewish activists opposed to the occupation built a protest camp in the former village of Surara. Palestinians living there were expelled in the 1990s.

The event was organized by a coalition of groups, including the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, local Palestinian committees, Youth Against Settlements, the All That’s Left Collective, the Holy Land Trust and Combatants for Peace. Members of IfNotNow also participated in the action. Activists arrived in the morning and continued working through to the afternoon, when several people — including Youth Against Settlements’ Issa Amro — spoke about the purpose and impact of the event.In a press release, the organizers said that the “Sumud Freedom Camp” would remain in place for a week, during which workshops on nonviolent resistance will be held. The organizers also called on activists “around the world to hold meetings, demonstrations, solidarity actions, discussion groups and prayer groups aimed at ending Israel’s military occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.” — +972mag

As a coda, Noam Sheizaf writing in Haaretz highlights a paid ad published on September 22, 1967 in right-leaning Israeli newspapers shortly after the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza were first occupied. It was signed by dozens of Israeli public intellectuals and expressed a triumphant view that has driven Israeli policies since:

The Land of Israel is now in the hands of the Jewish people, and just as we are not permitted to forgo the State of Israel, so too we are enjoined to sustain what we have received from it: the Land of Israel. We are hereby committed faithfully to the wholeness of our land, in regard to the Jewish people’s past and to its future alike, and no government in Israel shall ever forgo this wholeness.

Noam points out that the authors of this letter went on to enjoy great success in renown. Coincidentally, a different paid ad ran in Haaretz the very same day. In 52 words it neatly foretold the current situation. It was written by two members of the far-left Matzpen organization, Haim Hanegbi and Shimon Tzabar:

“Our right to defend ourselves against annihilation does not grant us the right to oppress others,” the ad stated. “Conquest brings in its wake foreign rule. Foreign rule brings in its wake resistance. Resistance brings in its wake oppression. Oppression brings in its wake terrorism and counterterrorism. The victims of terrorism are usually innocent people. Holding onto the territories will turn us into a nation of murderers and murder victims.” And in large font at the end: “Let us leave the occupied territories now.”

The names of the 12 signatories of the ad meant absolutely nothing to the Israeli public. Historian Nitza Erel, who discusses the two ads in her 2010 book “Matzpen: Conscience and Fantasy” (Hebrew), notes that even the famed public intellectual Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who was to become known for his anti-occupation stance, declined to sign the petition.
— Haaretz

Cross-posted to NotMeUs.org | @subirgrewal

Creeping authoritarianism: If Gianforte wins, it’ll make things worse.

Ben Jacobs had been working on an article about the Montana race for the past few days. It was published yesterday and in it, Jacobs notes that Greg Gianforte was not a fan of Trump last year during his gubernatorial run. But that changed after Trump won and Gianforte decided to run for Zinke’s seat. Then, of course, this happened:

The billionaire Republican congressional candidate’s assault on Ben is garnering much deserved attention. If you haven’t already, it’s worth pausing for a moment to read the bigger story Jacobs was reporting on with his colleague Paul Lewis.

Together, they interviewed several Montana voters and attended a number of Gianforte’s rallies. There is a ten minute video segment they put together that is worth watching. It showcases competing views of Trump, Quist and Gianforte among Montana voters. It also has some breathtaking views of Big Sky country alongside a discussion of public lands. Watch it till the end and you’ll be rewarded with a comment from a Quist supporters who calls Montana “white man’s country” and says it will take a while for people to turn against Trump, we are only a few months in.

Trump, and what he’s unleashed, is directly related to the assault. In a statement, Gianforte’s campaign tried to paint it as a tussle with a pushy “liberal journalist”. They’re clearly hoping to trigger the far-right’s distrust of the media in general. If we go by the comments at this local news stations’ story, they might have succeeded to a degree. Inciting hatred towards the media was one of Trump’s strategies throughout the election campaign. He called the press “the enemy of the people”. Some of his supporters took it up another notch and used the Nazi’s term “lugenpresse”. Reporters, who were held in a pen at Trump’s campaign rallies, were the object of constant verbal abuse by then candidate Trump, and sometimes threats from his supporters.

In some ways, Trump’s distaste for journalists and protesters follows in the footsteps of other Republicans who have marinated their hatred of a skeptical media for decades. But Trump has taken it to an extreme, thanks to his affection for strongmen and their authoritarianism. In the American context, this is echoed in his constant praise of Andrew Jackson, whose administration used the powers of the state to further a genocidal campaign of Indian removal. Trump’s admiration for authoritarians isn’t limited to the past. We have a president who told Philippine president Duterte his extra-judicial killings of alleged drug addicts was a “great job”.  Turkish president Erdogan has arrested innumerable journalists and political opponents in the past few months and ordered his bodyguards to beat up protestors outside the Turkish embassy in DC. Trump has praised him effusively. 

There is a reasonable chance Gianforte wins, even though Montana newspapers have pulled their endorsements and the sheriff’s office has filed an assault charge against him. Over 250,000 Montanans have already voted, that is likely to be over half the turnout (there are 699,000 registered voters). Montana doesn’t permit early-voters to change their minds.

If Gianforte wins, there will be an attempt to paint this as a validation of Trump’s statement that he ”could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters”. If Gianforte wins, expect Republicans to believe that even more than they already do. They will act accordingly and support Trump, which will make the next 18-40 months a worse authoritarian nightmare than they already are.

We have to resist that narrative and emphasize that Americans will not stand for politicians who encourage, or are complicit in assaults on reporters and protesters. We all know we haven’t ever lived up to those ideals, but we do need to keep restating them if norms are to be maintained.

And we need to keep insisting that reporters be free to do their job. What’s truly remarkable about yesterday’s events is that Jacobs didn’t miss a beat after he was slammed to the floor and punched by Gianforte. He got right back up and started asking questions again:

Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org | @subirgrewal

Jared Kushner uses lawfare to extort money from poor tenants in Baltimore.

While much of the discussion of Kushner’s real-estate empire has focused on glitzy high-rises in New York City, Kushner also owns far more modest low-rise residential rental complexes across the country. The NY Times and Pro Publica have a superb exposé of shoddy conditions and exploitative, extortionate tactics used in Baltimore housing complexes owned by a company called “JK2 Westminster”. The JK stands for Jared Kushner’s initials.

The article describes the travails of one young woman who terminated her lease early, with permission from the landlord, a few months before Kushner bought the property. Kushner’s lawyers filed a court-case to extract several thousand dollars from the young woman. The judge ruled against her because she failed to attach a document. Her wages were garnished and her bank account emptied. 

The garnishing started that month. Warren was in the midst of leaving her job, but JK2 Westminster garnished her bank account too. After her account was zeroed out, a loss of about $900, she borrowed money from her mother to buy food for her children and pay her bills. That February — five years after she left Cove Village — Warren returned to court, this time with the housing form in hand, asking the judge to halt garnishment. “I am a single mom of three and my bank account was wiped clean by the plaintiff,” she pleaded in another handwritten request. “I cannot take care of my kids when they snatch all of my money out of my account. I do not feel I owe this money. Please have mercy on my family and I.” She told me that when she called the law office representing JK2 Westminster that same day from the courthouse to discuss the case, one of the lawyers told her: “This is not going to go away. You will pay us.”

The judge denied Warren’s request without explanation. And JK2 Westminster kept pressing for the rest of the money, sending out one process server after another to present Warren with legal papers. Finally, in January 2016, the court sent notice of a $4,615 lien against Warren — a legal claim against her for the remaining judgment. Warren began to cry as she recounted the episode to me. She said the lien has greatly complicated her hopes of taking out a loan to start her own small assisted-living center. She had gone a couple of years without a bank account, for fear of further garnishing. “It was just pure greed,” she said. “It was unnecessary.” I asked why she hadn’t pushed harder against the judgment once she had the necessary evidence in hand. “They know how to work this stuff,” she replied. “They know what to do, and here I am, I don’t know anything about the law. I would have to hire a lawyer or something, and I really can’t afford that. I really don’t know my rights. I don’t know all the court lingo. I knew that up against them I would lose.”

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All of this evokes the practices of Kushner’s father-in-law, who also got his start managing low-income and rent-stabilized properties. Trump and his father practiced housing segregation and harassed tenants in NYC for decades.

The pattern of behavior by Kushner’s companies and lawyers seems downright vindictive :

In the cases that Tapper has brought to court on behalf of JK2 Westminster and individual Kushner-controlled companies, there is a clear pattern of Kushner Companies’ pursuing tenants over virtually any unpaid rent or broken lease — even in the numerous cases where the facts appear to be on the tenants’ side. Not only does the company file cases against them, it pursues the cases for as long as it takes to collect from the overmatched defendants — often several years. The court docket of JK2 Westminster’s case against Warren, for instance, spans more than three years and 112 actions — for a sum that amounts to maybe two days’ worth of billings for the average corporate-law-firm associate, from a woman who never even rented from JK2 Westminster. The pursuit is all the more remarkable given how transient the company’s prey tends to be. Hounding former tenants for money means paying to send out process servers who often report back that they were unable to locate the target. This does not deter Kushner Companies’ lawyers. They send the servers back out again a few months later.

There are several more examples in the lengthy Pro Publica/NY Times’ expose, including the story of a young mom who moved because black mold in her apartment induced her son’s asthama. She too was pursued by Kushner’s lawyers, even though she terminated her lease early (with permission) a year prior to them buying the property. There are other examples of poor maintenance and how the Kushners changed rent-payment rules and deadlines so as to create more late fees. 

And it wasn’t happening just in Baltimore — Doug Wilkins, a lawyer in Toledo who has represented some of the complexes bought there by Kushner, told me the company is seeking far more monetary judgments than did previous owners.

Cross-posted at NotMeUs.org | @subirgrewal