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EditorBlog (1789)

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

peacefulprotest (Photo: Jackman Chiu)

Earlier this month, two protesters received three-day jail sentences for conducting a sit-in at Jeff Sessions' office on January 10, during the attorney general's confirmation hearing. The activists are members of Democracy Spring, a grassroots organization that focuses on democracy and political equality. A recent email from Democracy Spring states:

Kai Newkirk and Tania Maduro plead guilty to one count of unlawful entry.... The two were part of an eight-person peaceful protest calling on Sessions to withdraw his nomination for the position of Attorney General. This was the same Senate Confirmation hearing where then Sen. Sessions lied under oath to Sen. Al Franken, saying he "did not have communications with the Russians."

Newkirk, who served his jail time, noted in an email that it's ironic that his actions, which harmed no one, are the ones being punished:

This sentence serves as a very small reminder of the urgency of this moment of crisis for our democracy and our nation. Jeff Sessions perjured himself, lying under oath about a matter as profoundly important as the apparent interference into our election by an authoritarian foreign government. Yet he remains in the position of our nation's chief law enforcement officer, while peaceful action to defend our democracy is met with arrest and jail time. The integrity of the law has been undermined. Sessions should resign and be charged with perjury.

A video of the January 10 protest can be found on Facebook.

 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

32730324780 36f77b1ce2 z(Photo: Ted Eytan )

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A Morning Consult/Politico poll released on March 29 indicates that most Americans want the Republicans to move on from their multiyear obsession with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act; 51 percent of those surveyed want to end the legislative efforts to overturn the health care law while only 37 percent want the political battle in DC to continue:

After the GOP spent seven years railing against the Affordable Care Act but failed to pass an overhaul to the law last week, most voters want them to stop trying -- except the party base.

However, the exception of the Republican "party base" can still play a role in reviving the effort to dismantle Obamacare. That is because "Among Republicans, 62 percent of registered voters want reform efforts to continue, versus just 30 percent who think lawmakers should stop." Given that the Republicans control Congress and there are three major GOP factions in the House of Representatives -- conservatives, Tea Party members and GOP party-line voters -- it is likely that the jostling over repealing the Affordable Care Act will continue. Morning Consult sums it up: "After the GOP spent seven years railing against the Affordable Care Act but failed to pass an overhaul to the law last week, most voters want them to stop trying -- except the party base."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

31985903113 b5bd1b6cf1 z(Photo: Laurie Shaull)

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Karen Dolan and Peter Certo of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) recently wrote a commentary contending that pundits and advocates are justified in calling for Jeff Sessions to step down as attorney general. Many are basing their clamor for Sessions' resignation on the revelation that he perjured himself before Congress by failing to divulge information about his previous meetings with a Russian ambassador.

However, Dolan and Certo are careful to point out that Sessions should have never been confirmed in the first place. Just take a look at his record prior to assuming office in the Department of Justice.

Sessions was barred from a federal judgeship in the 1980s due to concern about his racist attitudes. Dolan and Certo write:

As a senator, he voted to undermine the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and racked up a 20-plus year track record of opposing LGBTQ rights. He even voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and opposed adding crimes against gay people to the list of hate crimes.

Unsurprisingly, Sessions has a miserable 7 percent rating from the NAACP on affirmative action, and scores just 20 percent from the ACLU with regard to upholding civil rights.

Furthermore, he's wasted no time since becoming attorney general in putting as many brakes on the civil rights of Americans as he could in just a few weeks. He's got it out for everyone from people of color to transgender people.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

deportationsstop32(Photo: GGAADD)

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An article in the Guardian US today describes the importance of the work that undocumented people do in the restaurant and food hospitality industry. Using Charlotte, North Carolina as an example, the Guardian US provides evidence that many people who are undocumented are performing critical work that is essential to the country's food supply, preparation and service:

There are about 7,000 undocumented people in Charlotte’s county estimated to be working in hospitality, such as restaurants, bars and hotels, according to the Migration Policy Institute [MIP]. (The national figure is around 1.3 million.) This suggests roughly one in ten people working in hospitality positions across the city are likely undocumented, according to 2014 American Community Survey data. And that’s not to mention the people who work in the city’s food supply chain: the state’s farms and fields employ another estimated 17,000 undocumented people, according to MIP.

It’s not impossible that restaurant food in a city like Charlotte could have involved an undocumented worker at every stage – from field, to truck, to processing facility, to distribution centre, to kitchen, to the waiter placing down a plate.

This phenomenon obviously extends far beyond Charlotte.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

churchtrumpWill Trump succeed in allowing religious organizations to be active in political fundraising and organizing? (Photo: Marie Loughin)

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Recently, a group of nearly 100 religious leaders sent a letter to President Trump urging him not to allow religious organizations to engage in partisan politics:

At the National Prayer Breakfast, you promised to "totally destroy the Johnson Amendment," which is the provision in the tax code that prohibits public charities and private foundations from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing political candidates or parties.

For more than 60 years, this rule barring campaign intervention has helped keep tax-deductible money out of partisan politics. It has helped maintain the integrity and autonomy of our religious and charitable sectors and preserve the boundary separating church and state. It has guaranteed that Americans’ charitable giving will not be channeled into political campaigns. For those reasons, the current law is overwhelmingly supported by the public. Without this rule, nonpartisan charities and places of worship would be open to manipulation for political ends.

Up to now, charities and religious organizations have been insulated from electioneering, and instead have been committed to doing good work, like alleviating poverty, ministering to the spirit, curing disease, and addressing other basic human and social needs.

Public Citizen, a national watchdog advocating for the common good, referred to Trump's stated goal:

The Johnson Amendment recently has gained national attention after Trump vowed at the National Prayer Breakfast in February to “totally destroy” the law.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

trump444(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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The Trump administration has installed political operatives to watch over and "advise" cabinet secretaries and their departments, according to a recent Washington Post article:

Most members of President Trump's Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged -- above all -- with monitoring the secretaries' loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.

This shadow government of political appointees with the title of senior White House adviser is embedded at every Cabinet agency, with offices in or just outside the secretary's suite. The White House has installed at least 16 of the advisers at departments including Energy and Health and Human Services and at some smaller agencies such as NASA, according to records first obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request.

This Week notes an ironic similarity that apparently the Pentagon noticed and The Post got wind of:

Pentagon officials privately call Brett Byers, charged with keeping an eye on Defense Secretary James Mattis, "the commissar," The Post reports, helpfully explaining that the nickname is "a reference to Soviet-era Communist Party officials who were assigned to military units to ensure their commanders remained loyal."

Vanity Fair headlined a story about the new appointees, "Trump's Soviet-Style Plan to Create His Own Deep State.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

6355404323 cf97f9c58e z (Photo: 401(K) 2012)

 A March study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic policy concludes:

A newly updated report released today provides data that helps dispute the erroneous idea espoused during President Trump’s address to Congress that undocumented immigrants are a drain to taxpayers. In fact, like all others living and working in the United States, undocumented immigrants are taxpayers too and collectively contribute an estimated $11.74 billion to state and local coffers each year via a combination of sales and excise, personal income, and property taxes, according to Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

On average, the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants pay 8 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes every year.

The report later speculates:

Creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States and allowing them to work here legally would boost their current state and local tax contributions by more than $2.18 billion a year.... Personal income tax collections would increase by $1.1 billion a year. Sales and excise taxes would increase by $702 million, and property taxes would grow by $362 million. As a result, the overall state and local taxes paid by undocumented immigrants as a share of their income would increase from 8 percent to 8.6 percent.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

wallstreet (Photo: Naoki Nakashima)

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, DC just released a report comparing the bonuses received by Wall Street employees to the earnings of minimum-wage workers. After analyzing the data, IPS concluded, according to a news release:

Wall Street banks handed out $23.9 billion in bonuses to their New York City-based employees last year, according to new figures from the New York State Comptroller. To put these figures in perspective, we've compared the Wall Street payout to low-wage workers' earnings.

    • The total bonus pool for 177,000 Wall Street employees was 1.6 times the combined annual earnings of all 1,075,000 U.S. full-time minimum wage workers.

    • The average Wall Street bonus increased by 1 percent last year to $138,210. Since 1985, the nominal value of the average Wall Street bonus has increased 890 percent, whereas the minimum wage has risen only 116 percent.

    • The much faster increase in Wall Street bonuses has contributed to racial and gender inequality, since workers at the bottom of the wage scale are predominantly people of color and female, whereas those in the financial industry's upper echelons are overwhelmingly white and male.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

CBP Badge(Photo: United States Department of Homeland Security )

Think twice about bringing electronic and digital property, including your regular cellphone, loaded with confidential information through US border crossings.

CNN reports:

In fiscal year 2016, 390 million people entered the US and 23,877 electronic media [device] searches were conducted at the border. In fiscal year 2015 there were only 4,764.

That's a fivefold increase, and that occurred under the Obama administration. Given Donald Trump's proclamations that he will aggressively "protect our borders," the number of electronic and digital media searches at US crossing points is likely to further increase.

An Associated Press article from last month notes:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation both say they have noticed an uptick in complaints about searches of digital devices by border agents.

The increase has become most noticeable in the last month, said Adam Schwartz, a senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“We are concerned that a bad practice that has existed under past presidents has gotten worse in quantity under the new president,” Schwartz said.

Although this practice is an invasion of privacy for everyone who is searched, it hits journalists particularly hard.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR AT BUZZFLASH

trump333(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

On March 9, the Washington Post reported that the Trump Organization had just been granted dozens of trademarks by China, and questioned whether this was another of the many apparent conflicts of interest between Trump the president and Trump the business tycoon:

China has granted preliminary approval for at least 38 Trump trademarks for businesses ranging from hotels and spas to animal training and weather forecasting, reopening a debate about the potential for conflicts of interest under his presidency…

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called it an "astonishing development." After Trump sought valuable trademarks in China for more than a decade without success before his election, "the floodgates now appear to be open," he said in a statement.

Cardin suggested that Beijing officials "have come to appreciate the potential return on investments for China in having a positive, personal business relationship" with Trump as president. He called on the administration to "brief Congress, immediately, on these matters and on the potential constitutional dangers that they present."

China was a regular target of Trump's campaign rhetoric, in which he focused on reforming trade policy and accused China of currency manipulation. However, now that he is president, the trademarks appear to be an example of how the Trump business empire is benefitting from a financial relationship with China.

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