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Fenwick 0609wrp optFenwick Hall, College of the Holy Cross (Photo: George Rypysc III)When he was executive director during the heyday of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed appeared to enjoy talking about organizing and conducting stealth campaigns to get conservatives elected to as many political offices in as many states as possible. In an early nineties interview with Norfolk, Virginia's Virginian-Pilot, Reed said: "I want to be invisible. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night." To the Los Angeles Times, he later explained stealth as akin to "guerrilla warfare. If you reveal your location, all it does is allow your opponent to improve his artillery bearings. It's better to move quietly, with stealth, under the cover of night."

Flash forward two decades, and Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative group, Turning Point USA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, has initiated his own version of stealth campaigns in order to try and seize power on college and university campuses across the nation; campuses he describes as "islands of totalitarianism."

In the book Time for a Turning Point, co-authored by Turning Point USA Board Member, Brent Hamachek, they indicated that he wanted to make Turning Point "the MoveOn.org of the right." As The Chronicle of Higher Education's Michael Vasquez pointed out, since its founding, Kirk has moved up in conservative ranks, boosting his own public profile, and receiving donations from high-powered, longtime GOP supporters, including Foster Friess, a major conservative Christian evangelical donor. The organization's budget went from $52,000 in 2012 to $5.5 million last year, according to Kirk's book.

According to Vasquez, Kirk has a launched a "secret counteroffensive" aimed at "getting young conservatives elected to student government" positions.

Why put so much effort and money into battles over student governance?


Published in Guest Commentary


Whistle 0607wrp optA pea whistle. (Photo: Richard Wheeler)I need one of you to help me. It might get dangerous. It may get us in trouble. But we're running out of time. We must act. It's our patriotic duty.

From the time you opened this letter to the time you get to the bottom of it, there's a decent chance that our president will have violated the constitution, obstructed justice, lied to the American people, encouraged or supported acts of violence or committed some horrible mistake that would've ended any other politician's career (or sent you or I to jail). And just like all the times he's done so in the past, he will get away with it.

Donald Trump thinks he's above the law. He acts like he's the above the law. He's STATED that he's above the law. And by firing Sally Yates, Preet Bharara and James Comey (3 federal officials with SOME authority to hold him accountable) he's taken the first few steps to make it official.

And yet, we keep hearing the same reaction to President Trump that we heard with candidate Trump after every new revelation or screw up: "He's toast!" "He can't survive this!" "He's finished!"

Make no mistake—Donald J. Trump has NO intention of leaving the White House until January 20, 2025. How old will you be in 2025? That's how long he plans to be your president. How much damage will have been done to the country and the world by then?

And that is why we must act.

Published in Guest Commentary


Pills 0607wrp optVariations on a common tablet design. (Photo: Ragesoss)The just-released Trump fiscal-2018 budget proposal is devastating news for 77 million poor and lower-income Americans. As the third largest domestic program in federal spending (behind Social Security and Medicare), it has been on the chopping block of the Republican agenda for some time. Enacted in 1965, this joint federal-state program has been a crucial part of a safety net for health care over its 52-year history for eligible  children and adults, the blind and disabled, seniors, and about 16 million adults who have gained eligibility since 2010 through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Trump budget would cut Medicaid spending by $834 billion and cover 14 million fewer people by 2026, while giving the wealthiest Americans a $600 billion tax cut, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Federal spending on Medicaid would be phased out through block grants to states, with the expectation that states pick up the slack for their vulnerable populations. The current federal-state share of Medicaid funding varies considerably by state—from 74 percent federal in Mississippi to 50 percent in California and New York.

The recently passed House bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), would implement per-capita caps on federal spending on Medicaid in 2020. As an alternative to caps, states could opt to accept block grants any time after 2019, which would give states more flexibility on who would be covered, what services would be provided, and how providers would be compensated. Four Republican governors—from Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio—immediately wrote to House and Senate leaders that “the House bill provides almost no new flexibility for states, does not ensure the resources necessary to make sure no one is left out, and shifts significant new costs to states.

The AHCA has moved on to the Senate, where many call it dead on arrival. A 13-man working group—no women, despite the AHCA’s one-year cut in funding for Planned Parenthood—has been tasked with crafting the Senate’s own bill. Major controversies will surround such issues as reversal of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion (supported by many Republican governors), possible higher premiums for older Americans, waivers that allow states to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or for such essential benefits as hospital care, contraceptive services and maternity care, work requirements for eligibility, and time limits on coverage.

Published in Guest Commentary


Scale 0605wrp optA Pan Balance scale with weights. (Photo: Mauro Cateb)The vast inequality that's rending our society is not a natural, inevitable or accidental phenomenon — it's caused intentionally by policy-decisions that corporate and political officials make, often in tandem.

Every now and then, we commoners get a glimpse of inequality in the making, as we did recently when the GOP Boss of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan rammed the awful Trumpcare bill through that chamber. Without allowing any public testimony or even getting an analysis of its cost, Ryan browbeat and cajoled the Republican majority to hold their noses and pass this gob of plutocratic wretchedness. Their bill was so bad that, at most, a mere 17 percent of Americans support it.

The public's distaste for Trumpcare is well-deserved, for it's an inequality machine: It strips at least 23 million people of health coverage; it lets insurance corporations either refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions or to gouge them with extreme price increases; and it lets states eliminate the requirement that insurance policies must at least cover such essential health needs as cancer treatment and maternity care.

And, in a flagrant example of directly widening inequality in America, the Republicans' bill slashes $880 billion out of the Medicaid budget, which provides health care for the poor, the elderly and the disabled. That's not just a cut in dollars, but in people — 14 million needy families would lose their access to healthcare.

Published in Guest Commentary


Knife 0605wrp optA fixed-blade knife. (Photo: KennethHan)The violent actions of resentful, bitter and hate-filled white men are more than isolated incidents; they are a trend. The rise of white supremacist groups, alt-right groups staging provocative demonstrations, white men stockpiling weapons, hate speech spewed on social media, white nationalist materials spread about college campuses in the dead of night, and unprovoked deadly attacks on Muslims and African Americans are all part of a coming out party for White Supremacists in the age of Trump.  

According to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League titled "A Dark & Constant Rage: 25 Years of Right-Wing Terrorism in the United States," there has been "150 right-wing terrorist acts, attempted acts, and plots and conspiracies that took place in the United States during the past 25 years (1993-2017)."

"In March 2017, a white supremacist from Maryland, James Harris Jackson, traveled to New York City with the alleged intention of launching a series of violent attacks on black men to discourage white women from having relationships with black men," the report documented. "After several days, Jackson chose his first victim, a 66-year old black homeless man, Timothy Caughman. Jackson later allegedly admitted that he had stabbed Caughman with a small sword he had brought with him, describing the murder as a 'practice run.'"

Richard Collins III, a student at Bowie State University and a recently commissioned U.S. Army second lieutenant, was stabbed to death just days before his graduation during a recent visit to the University of Maryland at its College Park campus. According to insidehighered.com, "Sean Christopher Urbanski, a University of Maryland student, was … arrested nearby and charged with first-degree murder. ... Urbanski was a member of a Facebook group called 'Alt-Reich Nation,' where people shared racist memes."

And, last week in Portland, a racist white man stabbed to death two men, and wounded a third, when those men intervened on behalf of two young women -- one of whom was wearing a hijab -- being unmercifully harassed.

Published in Guest Commentary


SUNY 0602wrp optA SUNY campus. (Photo: Xakuri)The State University of New York (SUNY)―the largest university in the United States, with nearly 600,000 students located in 64 publicly-funded higher education institutions―has served an important educational function for the people of New York and of the United States. But its recent "partnerships" with private businesses have been far less productive.

In the spring of 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by businessmen, politicians, and top SUNY administrators, embarked upon a widely-publicized barnstorming campaign to get the state legislature to adopt a plan he called Tax-Free NY. Under its provisions, most of the SUNY campuses, portions of the City University of New York, and zones adjacent to SUNY campuses would be thrown open to private, profit-making companies that would be exempt from state and local taxes on sales, property, the income of their owners, and the income of their employees for a period of 10 years.

Tax-Free NY, Cuomo announced, was "a game-changing initiative" that would "transform SUNY campuses and university communities across the state." According to the governor, this program would "supercharge" the state's economy and bring job creation to an unprecedented level. Conceding that these tax-free zones wouldn't work without a dramatic "culture shift" in the SUNY system, Cuomo argued that the faculty should "get interested and participate in entrepreneurial activities."

Despite criticism of the program by educators, unions, and even some conservatives, SUNY administrators and local officials fell into line. Reluctant to challenge the governor and oppose this widely-touted jobs creation measure, the state legislature established the program, renamed Start-Up NY and including some private colleges, in June 2013.

Published in Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 31 May 2017 08:02

What Is Worse Than Being Poor?

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GoldMining 0531wrp optA stripped gold mine. (Photo: AlaskaMining)These are hard times for America's gold miners. They're struggling to haul wealth out of the land, but seeing their pay dropping further and further down.

Take Bob Mercer, who's been a top miner for years, but last year, (which has been described as somewhere between lackluster and catastrophic) even Bob was down. He pulled in only $125 million in pay. Can you feel Bob's pain?

No, these are not your normal miners. They are hedge fund managers, digging for gold in the Wonderland of Wall Street. If you divided Bob Mercer's pay in his "bad year" among 1,000 real miners doing honest work, they'd consider it a fabulous year. Hedge funds are almost literally gold mines, though they require no heavy lifting by the soft-handed, Gucci-wearing managers who work them. These gold diggers are basically nothing but speculators, drawing billions of dollars from the uber-rich by promising that they are investment geniuses who will deliver fabulous profits for them. But the scam is that Mercer and his fellow diggers get paid regardless of whether they deliver or not.

Their cushy setup, known as 2-and-20, works like this: Right off the top, they take two percent of the money put up by each wealthy client, which the hedge fund whizzes like Mercer keep, even if the investments they make are losers; if their speculative bets do pay off, they pocket 20 percent of all profits; hedge fund lobbyists have rigged our nation's tax code so these Wall Street miners pay a fraction of the tax rate that real mine workers pay.

Published in Guest Commentary

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Hammer optA claw hammer (Photo by Evan-Amos)Since its founding in the early 1940s, the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has been a mainstay in funding and building conservative institutions, and supporting right-wing projects. A new report by The Center for Media and Democracy’s “Exposed” project, dives into a new “national effort funded by the … foundation to assess and expand right-wing ‘infrastructure’ [in order] to influence policies and politicians in statehouses nationwide.”

According to CMD’s Mary Bottari, documents “linked to one of the Russian hackers alleged to have breached the Democratic National Committee,” were made public in October 2016. They “open a window to the behind-the-scenes workings” of the foundation, which as of June 2016, had $835 million in assets.

For the better part of its existence since its founding in 1942 by the Bradley brothers, Lynde and Harry, the foundation -- a tax-exempt “charitable” foundation under 501(c)(3) of the tax code – has, unlike the Koch Family Foundations and the Scaife Foundations family foundations, operated out of the spotlight Nevertheless, it has been one of the most influential right-wing foundations in the country.

In the late 1980s, after the brother’s Allen-Bradley Company in Milwaukee, which developed early resistors for electrical products, was sold to Rockwell International for $1.65 billion, the foundation’s coffers grew immensely, and it hired Michael S. Joyce to run its operations.

Published in Guest Commentary


Cannabis 0515wrp optA cannabis plant. (Photo: Cannabis Training University)In a recent two-page memo, largely crafted by Steven H. Cook, a veteran drug warrior, Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to have morphed into Harry Anslinger, a primary initiator of the decades-long drug wars. In his directive, Sessions has indicated that he is willing to turn back the clock, spend millions of dollars prosecuting drug offenders, push mandatory minimum sentences, exacerbate racial disparities in the justice system, and swell the nation’s federal prison population. Sessions policy could also prove to be a boon to private prison corporations that have federal contracts; with more arrests and convictions, more cells will be needed.

What is still unclear is how Sessions will deal marijuana -- which he has called a “dangerous drug” – in states that have medical marijuana laws, and those states that have voted to legalize marijuana.

“We’ve got too much complacency about drugs,” Sessions said at a summit in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 11, “Too much talking about recreational drugs. It’s the same thing we used to hear in the eighties. That’s what the pro-drug crowd argued then. But we realize the reality, empirical fact -- neighbors, friends, crime -- that this was not a legitimate thing. So we’re going to reverse this trend. I am committed to it. The president is committed to it. … We’re going to come together as a nation and we’re not going to allow this abuse, this threat to our country to erode our capabilities, and destroy good decent people in our country.”

In a pair of recent articles Will New Drug Czar Revive America's Disastrous Drug Wars and Drug Wars 4.0: From Anslinger to Nixon to Reagan to Trump and Sessions, we speculated about whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions was going to bring back the drug wars.

Published in Guest Commentary


Poverty 0515wrp optA New Jersey neighborhood. (Photo: Phillies1fan777)Americans with wealth and power don't generally care about the middle and lower classes. Even worse, they are doing real damage to the people they don't care about.

But why? Either these well-positioned people are 100 percent out of touch with the realities of middle-class life in our country, or they're contemptuous of those they consider inferior, or they believe so strongly in individual 'freedom' that even the word 'social' is repugnant to them. Or perhaps they're just not smart enough to see the value of people who are different from them.

The assault continues non-stop: Taking away healthcare, either by disposing of the Affordable Care Act or slashing Medicaid; weakening consumer protection laws; repealing fair wage and workplace safety laws; cutting overtime pay; jeopardizing civil rights in the name of "religious freedom"; putting low-income mothers at risk by cutting their maternity care; increasing penalties for minor drug offenses; giving our public lands -- including the homes of Native Americans -- to oil companies; and even denying kids healthy lunches.

A method can be detected amidst the madness, looking at it from the disdainer's point of view.

Published in Guest Commentary
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