Behind The Mask Of The ‘Moderates’

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – TORONTO—Pity Canada. Its citizens watch the stages of U.S. decline and then, a few years later, inflict on themselves the same cruelties. It is as if the snuffing out of democracy across the globe and the rise of authoritarian regimes are a preordained Greek tragedy and all of us, in spite of our yearning for liberty, must ominously play an assigned part. Canada is currently in the Barack Obama phase of self-immolation. Its prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is—as Obama was—a fresh face with no real political past or established beliefs, a brand. Trudeau excels, like Obama, French President Emmanuel Macron, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in empty symbolism. These “moderates” spew progressive and inclusive rhetoric while facilitating social inequality, a loss of rights and the degradation of the environment by global corporations. They are actors in skillfully crafted corporate advertisements. “Liberal democracy is bifurcating, giving rise to two new regime forms: ‘illiberal democracy,’ or democracy without rights, and ‘undemocratic liberalism,’ or rights without democracy,” writes political theorist Yascha Mounk. The “moderate” politicians espouse “undemocratic liberalism.” Lifestyle choices and expressions of personal identity are respected, even championed, while we are politically disempowered. The focus on multiculturalism and identity politics is anti-politics.

CBO: House GOP Tax Plan Triggers $25 Billion In Medicare Cuts

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By Ethan Wolff-Mann for Yahoo Finance – If the House GOP tax plan passes, it is projected to cut revenue significantly, likely increasing the deficit by $1.456 trillion from 2018 to 2027, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office (CBO). With a number that large, Congress’s “pay as you go” rules that prevent unchecked spending would fall into place, a move that could cut Medicare’s budget by as much as $25 billion for 2018. In a letter to House minority whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the CBO explained that without any more money to offset the fall in revenue, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would be required to issue a “sequestration order” to reduce spending in 2018 by $136 billion. The effects of this sequestration order would trigger automatic cuts to various programs, including Medicare. According to the CBO, this could be as much as 4% for Medicare, which amounts to $25 billion in 2018. Furthermore, all non-exempt programs would be eliminated, which include some farming subsidies, border security, and student loan help. Others, like Social Security, would remain untouched. At the same time, the tax plan’s changes to the estate and gift taxes would cut revenue $151 billion from 2018 to 2027, according to the JCT.

Universalizing Resistance To Attacks On Labor

A demonstrator displays a sign during a union protest in the Wisconsin capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, January 12, 2014. (Photo: Joe Brusky)

By Fred Redmond and Charles Derber for Truthout – In the last few months, Richard Trumka, president of the national AFL-CIO, resigned from a key Trump advisory board after Charlottesville; unions nationally are rallying with progressive Democrats to stop Trump’s anti-union appointees to the National Labor Relations Board; graduate students at Harvard, Boston College and many universities are fighting to unionize; and Bernie Sanders has introduced a “Medicare for All” bill. This is the beginning of the “universalizing” resistance to the right wing seeking to destroy unions, end social protections, including the Affordable Care Act, and return to a Gilded Age plutocracy. Workers are beleaguered. Wages have been stagnant for 30 years, benefits such as health care are eroding, the middle class is dwindling. The compensation of the average Fortune 500 CEO has ballooned to 347 times that of the average US worker. Workers’ hopes to secure the “American dream” are diminishing. Labor unions have shrunk to only 10.7 percent of workers, half the rate of 33 years ago. That decline is a result of unrelenting attacks by right-wing politicians. Wisconsin is a sad example. First Gov. Scott Walker kneecapped public sector unions; then he went after private sector labor organizations.

AFL-CIO Calls For A Break With “Lesser Of Two Evils” Politics

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By John Wojcik and Mark Gruenberg for People’s World – ST. LOUIS – The AFL-CIO convention here passed yesterday a political resolution that calls for a break with “lesser of two evil politics” but came up short when it comes to projecting a clear path to how that will be accomplished. “The time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils,” reads the main political resolution passed Tuesday by the AFL-CIO convention delegates. Lee Saunders, chair of the AFL-CIO’s political committee and president of AFSCME, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, introduced the resolution. They lead the labor federation’s two largest unions. Convention managers yoked the resolution to another measure it also approved discussing a labor party, though not by name. “For decades the political system has failed working people,” Weingarten said. “Acting on behalf of corporations and the rich and powerful, the political system has been taking away, one after another, the pillars that support working people’s right to good jobs and secure benefits.” The two measures, adopted October 24, followed a late Monday-evening meeting of supporters of reviving the Labor Party idea. It attracted about 50 delegates to an upstairs meeting room at the convention’s lead hotel. Their contention: Both the Democrats and the Republicans are under corporate domination.

Republican Mayor Transforms California City Into ‘The Solar Capital Of The Universe’

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By Jeremy Deaton for Think Progress – Parris isn’t just looking to attract installation jobs. He also wants to bring manufacturing jobs to Lancaster. Accordingly, he encouraged BYD to open two factories in Lancaster that will produce electric buses and large-scale batteries. The Antelope Valley Transit Authority, which manages public transit in and around Lancaster, is purchasing dozens of electric buses to replace its aging fleet of diesel buses. Lancaster is also replacing its street lights with LED bulbs produced by BYD. Next, Parris wants to require new homes to meet LEED energy efficiency standards, come with battery systems that can supply up to four days of power, and include systems that recycle wastewater from showers, sinks and washing machines to flush toilets and water plants. Even compared to other sunny California cities, Lancaster is exceptional, outstripping Los Angeles, San Diego and others in its deployment of clean energy. Asked why other California cities aren’t more bullish on renewables, Bozigian said they don’t have Mayor Parris or his “fantastically innovative” staff. “If other cities, or this state, had leaders like Mayor Parris and the Lancaster City Council, they would all be doing it,” said Bozigian. “You need to have guts, and you need to be decisive. You need to know what’s right, get the information you need, make a decision and do it.”

New Zealand’s New Prime Minister Calls Capitalism A ‘Blatant Failure’

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By Chris Baynes for Independent – New Zealand’s new prime minister called capitalism a “blatant failure”, before citing levels of homelessness and low wages as evidence that “the market has failed” her country’s poor. Jacinda Ardern, who is to become the nation’s youngest leader since 1856, said measures used to gauge economic success “have to change” to take into account “people’s ability to actually have a meaningful life”. The 37-year-old will take office next month after the populist New Zealand First party agreed to form a centre-left coalition with her Labour Party. They will be supported by the liberal Greens. New Zealanders had been waiting since 23 September to find out who would govern their country after national elections ended without a clear winner. Ms Ardern has pledged her government will increase the minimum wage, write child poverty reduction targets into law, and build thousands of affordable homes. In her first full interview since becoming prime minister-elect, she told current affairs programme The Nation that capitalism had “failed our people”. “If you have hundreds of thousands of children living in homes without enough to survive, that’s a blatant failure,” she said. “What else could you describe it as?” Incumbent prime minister Bill English, whose National Party has held power for nine years, has said his party grew the economy and produced increasing budget surpluses which benefited the nation.

‘Real Detroiters Speak Out’ To World Conference Of Mayors

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By Kris Balderas-Hamel for Workers World – The World Conference of Mayors is convening its 33rd anniversary conference in Detroit from Oct. 23 to Oct. 26. Was Detroit picked to host this event because of its dramatic population loss, record poverty and unemployment, mass home foreclosures and water shutoffs? Because of the racism and devastating austerity visited upon this majority African-American city? Not at all. Detroit was chosen for this international conference because of the alleged “exemplary leadership of Mayor Mike Duggan and his administration,” which “transformed Detroit into a city of extraordinary opportunities and possibilities,” according to wcmdetroit2017.com. The Moratorium Now Coalition says the city was picked to host the WCM’s International Trade and Investment Conference because of a development resurgence in which “public revenues generated through … taxation are being funneled to the capitalist corporations” and banks. Downtown Detroit has been gentrified. Sports arenas and commercial venues have proliferated at city taxpayers’ expense, while the neighborhoods and residents are forgotten and left to fend for themselves. Once the hub of the world’s automobile industry, with a population over 1.8 million, Detroit now has fewer than 673,000 residents. The population was decimated after two capitalist tsunamis flooded the city.

Chavistas Take 17 Of 23 States In Venezuelan Regional Elections As Opposition Cries Fraud

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By Lucas Koerner for Venezuela Analysis – Caracas, October 15, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – President Nicolás Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 17 of 23 states in Sunday’s gubernatorial elections, the National Electoral Council (CNE) has confirmed. According to CNE President Tibisay Lucena, 61.14 percent of Venezuela’s eighteen-million-strong electorate came out to vote, marking a record participation in the country’s regional elections, second only to the 65.45 percent turnout in 2008. The result defied forecasts of high abstention fueled by the current economic crisis as well as polls showing dissatisfaction with the leadership of both the government and political opposition. With 95 percent of all votes counted, the governing PSUV won in the states of Amazonas, Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Carabobo, Cojedes, Falcon, Guarico, Lara, Miranda, Monagas, Sucre, Trujillo, Yaracuy, Delta Amacuro, and Vargas. For its part, the opposition Democratic Action party triumphed in Anzoátegui, Merida, Tachira, and Nueva Esparta, while the First Justice party took the strategic northwestern border state of Zulia. The CNE has yet to release final results for the mineral rich Amazonian state of Bolivar in the country’s southeast border.

How Alabama's 'New Poll Tax' Bars Thousands Of People From Voting

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By Connor Sheets for AL – Randi Lynn Williams assumes she will never be able to afford to vote again. The 38-year-old Dothan resident lost her right to vote in 2008, when she was convicted of fraudulent use of a credit card. She was on probation for over two years, then served a few months behind bars ending in early 2011, at which point she would have been eligible to vote in most states. In Maine and Vermont, she would have never lost that right in the first place. But in Alabama and eight other states from Nevada to Tennessee, anyone who has lost the franchise cannot regain it until they pay off any outstanding court fines, legal fees and victim restitution. In Alabama, that requirement has fostered an underclass of thousands of people who are unable to vote because they do not have enough money. For folks like Williams, who said she regularly voted prior to her conviction in 2008, poverty is the only remaining obstacle to participation in the electoral process. “When all this started, the county told me I lost my right to vote and I don’t get my vote back until I pay all my fines and costs and get off probation and all that,” she said. Alabama’s felon disenfranchisement policies are likely unconstitutional, and they have disparate impacts on felons who are poor, black, or both, according to experts.

Gov. Cuomo Could Oust DA Vance But They Share A Party — And Donors

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By Josh Keefe and David Sirota for International Business Times – For instance, as IBT reported, in the middle of his office’s investigation into the Trump Soho deal, Vance accepted $10,000 from Elkan Abramowitz, whose firm was helping the Trump defense team. Abramowitz served as Cuomo’s lawyer in 2015 as the governor fended off a federal corruption probe, and Abramowitz has given $17,000 to Cuomo during his political career, according to state campaign finance records. Similarly, Weinstein’s longtime lawyer David Boies gave Vance $10,000 in August of 2015, just a few months after Vance decided to drop an investigation into allegations Weinstein groped a model in Manhattan. Boies, who wasn’t representing Weinstein in the 2015 criminal investigation, has contributed $55,000 to Vance over the years, and Boies together with his son and partners at his firm have given Vance’s three campaigns for DA a total of $182,000. Boies, who has been called “the nation’s most famous practicing lawyer” has also given $75,000 to Andrew Cuomo. President Trump’s longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who gave Vance $32,000 after the district attorney dropped an investigation into the president’s two children in 2012, also gave $35,000 to Cuomo. Vance returned Kasowitz’s donation last week.

Not A Liberal: Can A Black Mayor Bring Change To Mississippi?

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By Jamiles Lartey for The Guardian – 34-year-old attorney Chokwe Lumumba sees his election win as proof that even in a red state in the age of Trump, many people are ready to be progressive. The day Chokwe Lumumba’s father died in 2014, he asked for a moment to be alone in the room with the man he’d long considered his best friend. He told his dad, Chokwe Sr, then the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, all the last things he had to tell him. He prayed and asked god to put his father’s spirit into him. Then, he said, his next move became immediately apparent. “I decided at that moment, though I shared it with nobody, that I was going to run for mayor,” Lumumba said. “There were a lot of people who were hopeful under his administration, and there was a lot of fear surrounding his loss, so I wanted to restore hope for people.” The 34-year-old attorney who had “never run for junior class president, let alone mayor” now holds the keys to the state’s most populous city. He brings with him a progressive agenda and much of the leftover to-do list of his father’s administration. He sees his victory – collecting 93% of the vote in Jackson’s 6 June election – as proof that even in a deep red Republican state, and even in the age of Trump, the city’s residents are ready to move in a new progressive direction. “The citizens of Jackson have demonstrated overwhelmingly a readiness to be a progressive city and not only to correct the ills as we see them, but to be a model for the nation of what progressive leadership and collective genius can accomplish.”

Calling Out The Kobach Commission For What It Is

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By Emma Olson Sharky for Moyers and Company – In the coverage that followed the recent meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity, the media focused on the testimony of John Lott Jr., a gun researcher who argued that the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco’s background check system should be used to check voter eligibility. And while Lott’s testimony was worthy of the coverage — if not just for its ridiculousness, but also for its inaccuracy — this focus diverted attention from Kris Kobach’s continued underlying goal: to use this commission as a tool to restrict voting across the entire country. From the very start of this commission, Kris Kobach — Kansas’ Republican Secretary of State and vice chair of the commission — has made voter restriction his main objective. On June 28, as one of the panel’s very first actions, Kobach sent letters to the secretaries of state in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, asking them to compile and send extensive data on their voters. He requested not just names and addresses, but also other deeply personal information, such as dates of birth, Social Security numbers, political party affiliation and every election voted dating back to 2006.

Merkel’s CDU Wins With Dramatic Downturn, Far-Right AfD Enters Bundestag

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) speaks to her supporters late in the evening at the CDU election event in Berlin, Germany, 24 September 2017. [Carsten Koall / EPA-EFE]

By Catherine Stupp for Euractiv. Germany – Merkel’s coalition partners, the Social Democrats, were also dealt shocking losses, bringing them their worst results since World War Two. Party leaders said on Sunday evening that they would leave the government and lead the opposition in the Bundestag. The AfD, which had campaigned on the anti-Islam and anti-immigration ticket, will be the first far-right party to take up seats in the Bundestag in more than 50 years. Merkel, SPD leader Martin Schulz and other parties’ leaders were frequently criticised for leading boring election campaigns. But the losses to the CDU and the SPD are bigger than polls predicted, and the AfD’s win marks a dramatic change in the German political landscape. After exit poll figures were announced Sunday, Merkel admitted she was disappointed by the results. “Of course we expected a slightly better result, that’s totally clear,” she said at the CDU party headquarters. The CDU suffered its biggest ever slide in support between elections, drawing 33% of the vote, compared to 41.5% in 2013. The centre-left SPD picked up only 20.5% of the vote, down from 25.7% in 2013. Merkel has been chancellor since 2005, and her win will be celebrated as a sign of stability by many in Brussels. But talks on a new government could take a while. Exit poll results rolled in starting at around 6 o’clock on Sunday evening. According to final figures that were released early Monday morning, the AfD pulled in 12.6% of the vote, making it the third strongest party in the next Bundestag.

Fork In The National Road: A New Progressive Supermajority Party Is Forming

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By Gail McGowan Mellor for The Huffington Post – The time is ripe. The Democratic and Republican parties, private political clubs, are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution and do not represent the people who elect them, yet have a stranglehold on our electoral system. People are fed up. Hemorrhaging voters, the Dems and Reps are each down to around a fourth of the voters, already minority parties. Progressives — those who support minimum wage, social justice, strong environmental protection, 21st century infrastructure and universal healthcare and oppose corruption, invasive wars and corporate welfare — are meanwhile 66%, two-thirds of voters, the U.S. supermajority. We as a people therefore stand at a fork in the national road. The country’s Progressive supermajority could sweep every local, state and federal election if it united. Should we come together in the old Democratic Party or form a new one? The Democratic Party is in many states hollow below the federal level. Senator Bernie Sanders and a contingent of young Progressives have therefore been trying for a year to fill those levels with clean candidates, with some success but only to be repeatedly kneecapped by the party’s corrupt, deeply entrenched Neoliberal leadership.

Yes Men Target “Better Deal” #DNCTakeBack Scam

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By Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism – I must confess that I haven’t gone to the effort of shredding thin “Better Deal” concept papers because the whole thing was so lame and obviously elite-serving that I was sure Team Dem would abandon the initiative and come up with something at marginally more plausible sop to middle and lower class Americans. Even if they haven’t seen their standard of living decline, they know that their hold on their economic position is insecure and are correctly anxious about it. Silly me! Never underestimate the ability of Democrats to think turning up the volume in their echo chamber is a solution. In addition, the group that is supposedly behind these gatherings, DNCTakeBack, is obviously astroturf. It looks as if an existing party appendage was upgraded, since it got its first full time president only as of July 10. I’m sure this it was just a coincidence that this corresponded with the maiden voyage of SS Better Deal. And the staffers are party hacks political pros: Our organization was formed and is run by individuals who understand the political process from the inside out, and are now seeking to educate people about the power they have to shape the process from the outside in.