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 | @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 | @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 | @subirgrewal