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Citizenship Questions in the Census? Trump's DOJ Has an Audacious New Project to Suppress the Vote

January 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Why do top Republicans want paper proof of citizenship to vote? Because lots of blue voters don't have it.

Civil rights advocates have raised alarms because the Department of Justice has asked the U.S. Census to include a question about citizenship in its 2020 national survey. But the way the Trump administration has framed this request also shows it's poised to make proof of citizenship the latest voter suppression tool.

As many civil rights groups have noted, asking immigrant families to disclose undocumented relatives will push people to evade Census takers or simply lie, causing an undercount and diverting federal funds away from locales with immigrant populations.

“The Justice Department’s untimely and unnecessary request to the U.S. Census Bureau to add a question to the 2020 Census would destroy any chance for an accurate count,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Gupta noted that the Justice Department justified its request by saying it was needed to enforce voting rights.

The Justice Department has never needed to add this new question to the decennial census to enforce the Voting Rights Act before,” Gupta said. “Contrary to the Justice Department’s letter, the Census Bureau has not included a citizenship question on the modern census ‘short form,’ sent to every household, since enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.”

The DOJ’s mid-December letter requesting the citizenship question is the latest anti-immigrant development from the Trump administration, but it also underscores that the DOJ’s Voting Rights Section is now being run by right-wing Republicans who are known for wanting otherwise eligible voters to present paper proof of citizenship to register—which some key blue constituencies lack.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions comes from one of a handful of states that require would-be voters to produce paper proof of citizenship to register to vote in state elections. To vote in federal elections, they can simply sign an oath at the bottom of the federal registration form. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who heads Trump’s so-called Election Integrity Commission, has made this separate and unequal standard a personal …read more


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Steve Bannon Just Smashed Trump’s Russia Defense to Pieces

January 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Jefferson Morley, AlterNet

With a few choice words, the former adviser has sabotaged the Mueller smear campaign.

Steve Bannon’s caustic comments that President Trump, his son and his campaign advisers engaged in a meeting with Russian government agents that was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” has not only torched the president and his family, but disrupted the White House campaign to get rid of special prosecutor Robert Mueller. That may be why President Trump erupted so angrily.

While Trump, Capitol Hill Republicans, Fox News, and Breitbart News have sought for months to impugn the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation, Bannon just confirmed it, dashing all hopes of changing the subject from Trump’s embrace of Russia to Mueller’s integrity.

With his careless candor, Bannon refocused public attention on the Trump campaign’s deeply suspicious June 2016 meeting with Russian government officials offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor—with no lawyers,” Bannon said. “They didn’t have any lawyers.”

Mueller has made the Trump Tower meeting a target of his investigation for the same reasons. Acting as an agent of a foreign government without registering with the U.S. government is a violation of the law. Attempting to make a secret deal with foreign agents to malign a political rival smacks of disloyalty to the country. 

“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit—and I happen to think it’s all of that—you should have called the FBI immediately,” Bannon continued.

Thus the president’s chief propagandist endorsed liberal columnist Paul Krugman’s observation that the Trump Tower meeting was the “moral equivalent of treason.”

Bannon demolished Trump's claim that the charges of collusion with Russia are a “hoax” and “fake news.” To the contrary, Bannon said, Trump’s actions were legally reckless, if not potentially criminal. What Trump calls a hoax, Bannon describes as “bad shit.”

Amidst Trump’s unprecedented campaign of vilification of the FBI, Bannon states the obvious: Mueller has every reason to investigate the Trump Tower meeting.

Bannon also identified the weak link …read more


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School Vouchers Are Basically Food Stamps

January 4, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken


By: Ryan McMaken

In modern America, government schools are one of the last remaining truly socialist institutions. And when I use the term socialism, I'm using the technical and old-school definition: government ownership of the means of production.

Although private schools do exist in America, schooling in general — especially at the pre-college level — is overwhelmingly delivered by government-owned institutions called “public schools.”

Few other industries in America are operated this way, and this is true even when we include products and services essential to human life and safety, such as food and housing.

While the US did flirt with creating a large number of government-owned housing projects during the 20th century, housing is nearly all privately owned in the US today. Most government “affordable-housing” programs take the form of subsidies that go to private owners, whether for-profit owners who receive what were once officially called “Section 8″ vouchers, or via other subsidy programs.

Similarly, food production and grocery institutions are overwhelmingly private as well. Nearly all Americans, when they go to a store to buy food, do so at a privately owned shop of some kind. In this case, of course, there are also government subsidies, but they take the form of vouchers often referred to as “food stamps.”

Schools are one of the rare cases in which is is simply assumed by a great many people that a government should be directly delivering a good or service through a government-owned facility instead of through subsidizing a private institution.

Are Vouchers the Answer?

Advocates for school vouchers would like to move away from this state-owned model by relying on a voucher system for education. This is already done to an extent in higher education, with subsidized loans, and even with outright grants for certain low-income households who send students to private colleges.

RELATED: “Trouble with Vouchers” by William L. Anderson

On a certain level, it is hard to object to this plan — when compared to the government-ownership model.

Imagine, for example, if other industries were run like government schools.

In this scenario, every neighborhood has a government-owned (i.e., taxpayer funded) grocery store in it. There is also a much smaller number of private grocery stores. Imagine also that every neighborhood has a large number of government-owned houses, and there is also a much smaller number of private houses.

Imagine, then, that some reformers came along saying …read more


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Why Manafort's Attempt to Sue DOJ Shows How Vulnerable Trump Could Be

January 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Manafort and Trump both have a Russian money problem.

On Wednesday, President Trump’s ex-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, sued the Justice Department’s special counsel, urging a federal court to narrow Robert Mueller’s investigation to Russian collusion with Trump’s campaign, not private business deals. Manafort’s lawsuit described Mueller’s probe as a “creeping incursion” that can investigate “anything,” and likened Mueller to a “wolf.” Yet what emerges from this panicky plea is an acknowledgment that Mueller can investigate and prosecute the thing Trump fears the most—the question of whether Trump broke the law in order to build his fortune.

“Paul Manafort and Donald Trump share a common problem and it is entirely to do with Russian money,” said investigative reporter David Cay Johnston, who has covered Trump’s finances for decades and is author of the forthcoming book, It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America. “Trump has been receiving money from the Russians in squirrely deals, like grossly overpaying or funneling money through intermediaries, for more than 30 years.”

“Manafort, as an unregistered foreign agent, is vulnerable not so much because he might get a few years in prison, but because under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, he can be stripped of every dollar that prosecutor Mueller can show came from a foreign government,” Johnston continued. “Manafort, like Trump, is desperate to make sure that the record of financial transactions does not get before a judge and a jury.”

The optics of the lawsuit describe Mueller as a runaway prosecutor, echoing calls from Republican loyalists in Congress and right-wing media to discredit Mueller and urge Trump to fire him.

“Indeed, the Appointment Order in effect purports to grant Mr. Mueller carte blanche to investigate and pursue criminal charges in connection with anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote from the specific matter identified as the subject of the Appointment Order,” the lawsuit says. “The investigation has focused on Mr. Manafort’s offshore business dealings that date back to as early as 2005—about a decade before the Trump presidential campaign launched—and have been known …read more


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DNA from Ice Age Baby Uproots Native American Family Tree

January 4, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Members of the archaeology field team watch as University of Alaska Fairbanks professors Ben Potter and Josh Reuther excavate at the Upward Sun River site. (Photo courtesy of Ben Potter/University of Alaska Fairbanks)

DNA analysis of a six-week-old baby girl, buried some 11,500 years ago in what is now Alaska, has identified her as a member of a previously unknown Native American population. The discovery strongly supports the theory that the Americas were settled by people from Siberia, and presents scientists with the genetic key to better understanding how ancient humans migrated to North America from Asia.

Since 2006, archaeologists have been excavating the site known as Upward Sun, in the Tanana River Valley in central Alaska, where short-term human settlements seem to have popped up periodically over thousands of years. In 2010, a team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks found human bones there, including the cremated remains of a three-year-old child on top of an ancient hearth.

When they later dug into the hearth, scientists discovered the remains of two infants: a six-week-old girl they called Xach’itee’aanenh T’eede Gaay, or “sunrise girl-child” in the local dialect, Middle Tanana; and a younger child, possibly a fetus, whom they dubbed Yelkaanenh T’eede Gaay, or “dawn twilight girl-child.”

Now, as part of a new study published this week in the journal Nature, an international team of archaeologists and geneticists has reconstructed the entire genome of the older girl. At some 11,500 years old, hers is the second-oldest human genome found in North America. While the scientists expected the baby girl’s DNA to belong to one of the two known branches of Native American ancestry (northern and southern), they instead found a different genetic code, which marked Xach’itee’aanenh T’eede Gaay as a member of a previously unknown lineage.

“We didn’t know this population existed,” Ben A. Potter, a professor of anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and one of the lead authors of the new study, said of the study’s findings.

Potter and his co-authors believe the newly discovered group, the Ancient Beringians, split off from other Native American ancestors some 20,000 years ago, around the time many scientists believe the first humans made their way from Asia to North America. Beringia is the name used to refer to Alaska, the tip of Siberia and the land bridge that connected them during the last ice age.

Members of the archaeology field team watch as University of Alaska Fairbanks professors Ben Potter and Josh Reuther excavate at the Upward Sun River site. (Photo courtesy of Ben Potter/University of Alaska Fairbanks)

It’s unclear where exactly the split …read more


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Trump Is Still Involved in His Business Ventures All Over the World—Is That Constitutional?

January 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Heather Digby Parton, Salon

Now, about that emoluments clause: Autocratic governments around the globe are pouring money into Trump’s pocket.

Over the holidays, a little Daily Beast story by Betsy Woodruff passed under the radar. She reported that Donald Trump is still personally involved in running his businesses. The media didn't pay much attention, but perhaps that's not surprising, considering that nobody in a million years actually believed Trump was going to leave his company solely in the hands of his two scions, Donald Jr. and Eric. After all, he's spent a third of his first term making personal promotional appearances at Trump properties. He's not exactly keeping it on the down-low that he's still got his hand in the business.

Still, they like to keep up the pretense that Trump isn't paying attention to Trump Organization details because he's so busy running the country. Woodruff published an email from the director of revenue management at the Trump Hotel in Washington, Jeng Chi Hung, written to an acquaintance on Sept. 12, 2017, which suggests that simply isn't true.

The company is interesting to work for being under the Trump umbrella. DJT is supposed to be out of the business and passed on to his sons, but he's definitely still involved… so it's interesting and unique in that way. I had a brief meeting with him a few weeks ago, and he was asking about banquet revenues and demographics. And, he asked if his presidency hurt the businesses. So, he seems self-aware about things, at least more than he lets on. I am far left leaning politically, so working here has been somewhat of a challenge for me. But, it's all business.

This email may have passed unnoticed, but there's been quite a bit of coverage of the D.C. hotel, including the fact that all the visiting dignitaries ensure that the president knows they're spending money that's going into his own pocket. (We don't know how much that money that might be, since he still refuses to turn over his tax returns.)

Trump's never really been committed to being a full-time president. At a press conference in …read more


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The Gig Economy May Strengthen the 'Invisible Advantage' Men Have at Work

January 4, 2018 in Blogs

By Hernán Galperin, The Conversation

Do women freelancers suffer the effects of ‘male privilege’?

Martin Schneider often got things done faster than a female colleague, Nicole Hallberg, who worked at the same small employment services agency. He figured this was because of his extra experience.

One day, however, a client suddenly began acting “impossible,” “rude” and “dismissive,” as Schneider recalled in a series of tweets.

He soon realized why. Schneider had inadvertently used Hallberg’s email signature in his messages to the client. (They used a shared inbox.) When he told the client he was actually Martin and not Nicole, there was “immediate improvement” in the exchange.

Intrigued, Schneider and Hallberg agreed to do an experiment in which they switched email signatures for two weeks. What happened? Hallberg had the “most productive week of her career.” Meanwhile, Schneider was in “hell” as clients condescended and questioned everything he suggested.

Summing up the lesson, Schneider tweeted: “I wasn’t any better at the job than she was, I just had this invisible advantage.”

Sexism in the workplace

In many ways, the result of their experiment should not come as a surprise.

Sexism in the workplace is well documented in surveys and in academic literature. Recent reports of overt harassment in the private and public sectors confirm that it is alive and well. Further, the data show persistent gender gaps in pay, hiring and promotions across occupations and skill levels.

My own research looks at how the burgeoning gig economy – in which jobs are short-term or freelance rather than permanent – affects gender and other forms of labor discrimination. A study we recently conducted with colleagues at the Center for Distributive, Labor and Social Studies in Argentina suggests an increasingly freelance workforce may make the problem of male privilege even worse.

Maria and José

Discrimination in the labor market is notoriously difficult to study.

For decades, social scientists have tried to disentangle differences in ability, career preferences, attitudes towards risk and negotiation and other worker characteristics from true discrimination by employers. However, as economic transactions increasingly migrate to peer-to-peer platforms, this perspective misses an important piece of the …read more


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The Tragic Austrian Empress Who Was Murdered by Anarchists

January 4, 2018 in History

By Hadley Meares

The Emperor family of Austria, circa 1856. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

On April 25, 1854, a shy and melancholy bride married into a major European royal house. Trembling and overcome with emotion, 16-year-old Elisabeth, known by her childhood nickname Sisi, was wed to the 23-year-old Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, the absolute monarch of the largest empire in Europe outside of Russia. During the wedding festivities, thousands lined Vienna’s streets, eager to catch a glimpse of the new teenage empress. But in her glass coach on the way to her new home in the sprawling Hofburg imperial palace, Sisi sobbed—overwhelmed and afraid.

This unusual entrance into public life was one in a string of tragedies that marked Sisi’s reign, placing her within a long line of reluctant royal consorts trapped in gilded cages. Isolated in the palace, she suffered through mental illness, mourned her beloved son’s suicide and set off to wander the globe in search of peace—all before her assassination at the hand of an Italian anarchist.

With her ambivalence to public duties and reluctance to marry, the young bride recalled another royal born at the Hofburg almost exactly 100 years before, Marie Antoinette. But unlike the excesses of Marie Antoinette, the aloof Sisi would spend her life denying her own appetites. Stalked by the press, adored by the common man and bedeviled by depression and a severe eating disorder, Sisi’s royal career also brings to mind Princess Diana, whose life ended similarly tragically a century later.

Born in 1837 in Munich, Germany, Sisi grew up playing in the Bavarian forests with her seven brothers and sisters, riding horses and climbing mountains. From her eccentric father, Duke Maximilian Joseph, she inherited a belief in progressive democratic ideals and pacifism, uncommon for royalty at the time. From her hands-on mother, Princess Ludovika, she developed a love of privacy and a fear of public duties—traits that would not serve her well as empress.

The Emperor family of Austria, circa 1856. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Sisi’s husband, Franz Joseph, was hardworking and loved her, but had little imagination or humor. The new couple’s mothers (who were also sisters) had intended for the handsome 23-year-old emperor to marry Sisi’s sophisticated older sister, but Franz Joseph had been captivated by the slight Sisi from the moment he saw her. Sisi, on the other hand, was so nervous during the courtship that she was unable to eat.

The situation did not improve as …read more


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There's Still Time for Diplomacy in Korea

January 4, 2018 in Economics

By John Glaser

John Glaser

Amid ever-heightening tensions over North Korea’s nuclear
weapons program, there are finally some positive diplomatic
signals. On Jan. 3, Pyongyang reopened a long-closed border hotline
with South Korea — one day after Seoul proposed bilateral
negotiations and two days after Kim Jong Un said in his New Year
address that he was open to speaking with the South.

Yet when asked about this possible breakthrough, United Nations
Ambassador Nikki Haley threw cold water on the whole idea:
“We won’t take any of the talk seriously if they
don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North

Haley’s statement is as clear an articulation of the Trump
administration’s foreign policy as you can get: Diplomacy is
a waste of time; we will only talk to adversaries after they
unilaterally capitulate and obey all our commands. The problem is
that this approach is rarely effective. Sure, sometimes diplomacy
fails, but more often than not, blustery intimidation elicits
nothing but bluster and resistance in return.

Consider Washington’s post-World War Two approach to the
Soviet Union. According to the historian Melvyn P. Leffler, there
was “nearly universal agreement” in the military and
intelligence communities that the Soviet Union, though
expansionist, “was by no means uniformly hostile or unwilling
to negotiate with the United States.” Yet, in contrast to the
internal consensus, Leffler cites U.S. officials increasingly
depicting Moscow as “constitutionally incapable of being
conciliated” and hell-bent on “world

In July 1947, a War Department intelligence report found the
Truman administration’s more confrontational approach
“tend[ed] to magnify the significance of conflicting points
of view, and reduc[ed] the possibility of agreement on any
point.” According to Leffler, this “had resulted in a
more aggressive Soviet attitude toward the United States and had
intensified tensions.”

Nothing about the current
situation on the Korean peninsula forces us to take an exclusively
hardline approach. Only pride, honor, and terribly wrong ideas
about diplomacy prevent a more sensible approach.

By contrast, history is replete with examples of tactful
statecraft successfully yielding major concessions from

Although the Cuban missile crisis had for decades been
misrepresented as an example of a steely-eyed American president
staring down a retreating Soviet Union, the truth was later
revealed in declassified documents. John F. Kennedy secretly
offered to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey, while Russia’s
Nikita Khrushchev agreed to take the missiles out of Cuba in
exchange. Nuclear war was averted through diplomacy and mutual

President Barack Obama’s approach to Iran was successful
because it followed this diplomatic model. For years, Washington
approached Iran with obstinate condemnations, extreme demands, and
little interest in serious negotiations. This all-sticks-no-carrots
posture resulted in stubborn hostility on both sides and an
expanding Iranian nuclear program. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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To Stop Looming War with North Korea, Trump Must Let Kim Jong Un Talk to South Korea

January 4, 2018 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

In the lead up to the winter Olympic Games, North and South
Korea now seem set on restarting official high-level talks, which had been
frozen for the past two years. However, news of the talks has not
generated much enthusiasm among U.S. experts, with many warning that
supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s offer to talk is meant to
drive a wedge between South Korea and the
United States, and weaken the alliance.

Concern over a wedge developing in the alliance is not
misplaced, but the risks are manageable and should not stop the two
Koreas from dialogue. Moreover, if Washington wants to prevent a
wedge in its alliance with Seoul it should focus its efforts on
reining in President Donald Trump’s dangerous

Experts are right to sound the alarm bell over Kim’s
efforts to drive a wedge in the alliance. In his annual New Year’s address, Kim was fairly
explicit that improvements in North-South relations were the
responsibility of the two Koreas, not external parties. He said,
“Inter-Korean relations are, to all intents and purposes, an
internal matter of our nations, which the north and the south
should resolve on their own responsibility.” He also called
on South Korea to stop joint military drills with the United

If the South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s administration opts
for closer relations with North Korea while the Trump
administration insists on applying maximum pressure, it could indeed become more
difficult for Seoul and Washington to cooperate on matters like
military training and sanctions enforcement. Another potential
negative outcome of a wedge in the alliance is a one-sided concessionwherein South Korea gives
up something to the North without the North reciprocating with a
concession of its own. Both of these outcomes benefit Kim and put
the United States and South Korea in a worse position.

The resumption of
inter-Korean high-level dialogue is a cautiously optimistic
development for peace and stability on the Korean

Yet dialogue still has potentially immense value despite wedge
risks. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have skyrocketed over the
past year due to the action-reaction cycle of North Korean missile
and nuclear tests, followed by U.S. shows of military force and
tighter sanctions. This growing hostility has increased the risk of a
small-scale accident or crisis quickly escalating into a larger
conflict. Restoring high-level diplomatic contacts between South
and North Korea is unlikely to solve this problem completely, but
communication channels could prevent a small incident from
spiraling out of control.

Additionally, dialogue can help …read more

Source: OP-EDS