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Republicans Are Becoming Less Educated

March 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

Nerds to the left.

There are several key attributes that define the Republican Party in its modern incarnation: its overwhelming whiteness; its self-reported religiosity; its slavish devotion to a man who boasts he

An obvious contributor to the declining education level within the GOP is the party’s hostility toward higher education, which has grown more ardent in recent years, though dates back decades. In 1952, vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon labeled Democratic presidential contender Adlai Stevenson an “egghead,” a reference to both his intellect and emerging pate. People often point to William F. Buckley as epitomizing a more enlightened and pro-intellectual conservative movement, but that gives posh transatlantic accents too much credit while ignoring what’s actually being stated. In fact, the National Review founder declared in 1963 he “should sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University.” (He also argued American blacks weren’t quite civilized enough to have civil rights, because he was awful on multiple fronts.) In his campaign for California governor, Ronald Reagan suggested that “universities should not subsidize intellectual curiosity,” an argument that collapses in on itself under the weight of its vacuousness. And George W. Bush won infinite points with the anti-intellectualism crowd when he announced he wasn’t much for “sitting down and reading a 500-page book on public policy or philosophy or something.”

The cumulative effect of so much big, dumb posturing is a pervasive culture of animosity toward not just education, but sites of learning themselves. Institutions of higher learning are among the primary targets of Republican ire in the culture wars, with conservatives imagining universities as liberal indoctrination factories staffed by Marxists who transform impressionable white youth into communist feminazi agents of their own racial extinction. Last year, Pew researchers discovered that “a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58 percent) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45 percent last year.” The same poll found 72 percent …read more


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'It's Our Time and We Know What to Do': Activists Plan Next Steps After March For Our Lives

March 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Ilana Novick, AlterNet

First, they marched. Now, they vote.

Joaquin Oliver loved basketball. So much so, family friend Carol L. Chenkin told AlterNet, that his father, despite not being a huge sports fan, became his team’s coach as a way to bond with his son. On February 14, Joaquin was among the 17 people killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He was buried in Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat’s jersey.

Chenkin is now the executive director of Change the Ref, an organization started by Joaquin’s parents, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, to promote civic engagement and activism among youth determined to fight back against gun violence.

During the March for Our Lives last Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Americans descended on Washington, D.C. and cities across the country to protest political inaction on gun control and demand their representatives take a stand—or be voted out. The March for Our Lives was a galvanizing call to action, but it was only the beginning of a series of steps, all led by young people, to demand politicians pair their thoughts and prayers with policy change.

Students all over the country are now planning an April 20 nationwide walkout, with help from national groups like the Women's March Youth, whose site lists 49 walkouts and counting.

The Town Hall Project, an organization started after the 2016 election to demand that the 435 members of the House of Representatives hold public events where their constituents can hold them accountable, is encouraging Americans to demand their representatives have a “Town Hall For Our Lives” on April 7, specifically focused on gun control.

A group of students in Wisconsin even spent their spring break marching 50 miles from the capital of Milwaukee all the way to Paul Ryan’s home district in Janesville to demand gun control laws.

“50 Miles More has three asks for Paul Ryan and other politicians,” teen organizers Brendan Fardella, Katie Eder and Alemitu Caldart said in a joint interview with AlterNet.  

“The first is that all military-style weapons, weapons of war, should be banned from civilian …read more


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Keep Hospitals Safe From ICE

March 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Brave New Films

Our immigration policies force people to choose between their health or deportation.

Since Trump has taken office, the Department of Homeland of Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have aggressively targeted undocumented immigrants. With increasing reports of ICE roundups and arrests near and inside hospitals, more and more undocumented immigrants must choose between remaining with their families or risking deportation for medical care—even if their lives depend on it.

Immigrant Stories: Doctors and Nurses, the latest video by Brave New Films, exposes the inhumanity of immigration policies that force people to choose between medical care or deportation. Doctors and nurses report on the heightened levels of anxiety and stress their undocumented immigrant patients are experiencing, resulting in health complications, missed appointments, failure to pick up life-saving medications, and even patients yanking out their ventilation tubes and fleeing the ICU.

DHS maintains a policy of “sensitive locations”—hospitals, schools, places of worship, and public gatherings—where no immigration enforcement activity should take place unless there is a threat to national security or public safety. Unfortunately, this policy is just a set of vague discretionary guidelines that agents can ignore as they see fit.

The Protecting Sensitive Locations Act (H.R.1815/S.845) would strengthen and codify the current guidelines, expand the list of sensitive locations to include courthouses, bus stops, and other organizations that serve vulnerable populations, and would prohibit enforcement activity within 1,000 feet of any sensitive location.

The bill currently sits in judiciary committees in both the House and the Senate. It was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on April 5, 2017, and in the House by Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY 13) on March 30, 2017.

We urge Congress to pass the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act. No human being, whether undocumented, documented, or a citizen, should ever feel unsafe when seeking medical care.

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David Shulkin's Firing at the VA Is Latest Step in Trump-Koch Push to Privatize Veterans' Health Care

March 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

Trump and the Koch brothers are trying to kill the nation’s only single-payer system.

On Wednesday, President Trump fired Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and said he’d replace him with White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy. Dr. Jackson has no experience running a large agency. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the federal government’s second-largest department, with 360,000 employees. Shulkin had been facing criticism for various ethics violations, including using taxpayer money to pay for his wife’s airfare during a trip to Europe last summer. But Shulkin says he’s actually being ousted because of his opposition to privatizing the VA, which runs 1,700 hospitals and clinics. The push to privatize the VA has been led by a group called Concerned Veterans for America, which is funded by the billionaire conservative Koch brothers. We speak to Suzanne Gordon, an award-winning healthcare journalist. Her forthcoming book is titled “Wounds of War: Veterans’ Healthcare in the Era of Privatization.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show looking at the turmoil in the Department of Veterans Affairs. On Wednesday, President Trump fired Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and said he’d replace him with White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy. Dr. Jackson has no experience running a large agency. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the federal government’s second-largest agency, with 360,000 employees.

Shulkin had been facing criticism for various ethics violations, including using taxpayer money to pay for his wife’s airfare during a trip to Europe last summer. But Shulkin says he’s actually been ousted because of his opposition to privatizing the VA, which runs 1,700 hospitals and clinics. In a an op-ed for The New York Times, Dr. Shulkin wrote, “They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. That is because I am convinced that privatization is a political issue aimed at rewarding select people and companies with profits, even if it undermines care for veterans,” unquote.

The push to privatize the VA has been led by a …read more


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Saudi Crown Prince—'Socially Acceptable War Criminal'—Enjoys U.S. Tour Hosted by America's Elite

March 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

Despite public relations blitz, Saudi monarchy “retains an atrocious human rights record and the situation has only deteriorated since the crown prince was appointed.”

After meeting with President Donald Trump last week to reaffirm U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia's brutal assault on Yemen, crown prince and accused war criminal Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS, is continuing his “whitewash tour” across the country with “a who's who of America's rich and powerful.”

A peek at the prince's itinerary, leaked to The Independent on Wednesday, reveals meetings with top U.S. leaders in politics, media, and major industries—shedding light on the “full extent of the heir to the throne's American charm offensive.”

From New York to the Silicon Valley, the prince's coast-to-coast welcoming committee reportedly includes up to four previous presidents as well as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and several newspaper editorial boards.

“Saudi Arabia has always had a public image problem in the West because of the obvious things like women's rights and beheadings,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies, told The Independent. ”When you meet with Oprah, even if you're not going to be interviewed, you're seeking the approval of an opinion maker. You're going into people's homes and reaching deep into American culture.”

While America's so-called A-listers have seemingly lined up to rub elbows with MbS, critics of the prince—and the war his nation is waging against one of the world's poorest countries, causing a horrific humanitarian crisis—were less receptive to his supposed charm.

“If you didn't know better, you would think Saudi Arabia is on a path to major reform,” warned Amnesty International on Thursday. “However, in the months since the crown prince's appointment, we have seen little reason to believe that his overtures are anything more than a slick …read more


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It Looks Like the Supreme Court Isn't Going to Intervene in Gerrymandering Cases This Election Year

March 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

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They're befuddled. Justice Breyer even suggested all sides weigh in again, and another hearing be held.

One of the most anti-democratic features of the political landscape does not appear destined to change before 2018's midterm elections, even though extreme gerrymanders this week returned to the Supreme Court for the second time this term.

On Wednesday, liberal and conservative justices visibly struggled with how to rein in partisan gerrymanders in a Maryland case. But because the 2018 election is underway—and judges are hesitant to disrupt elections—and the earliest ruling is months away, it appears congressional maps in the most gerrymandered states will remain for 2018’s midterms.

The only exception appears to be Pennsylvania, whose state Supreme Court earlier this year threw out a Republican-authored map for its House districts for violating the state constitution. The court's expert created a new statewide map, giving Democrats chances to pick up several seats. (Top Republicans have called for impeaching the justices who ruled against them.)

But from a national perspective, Democrats seeking to regain a House majority will likely face the same anti-competitive districts that they have seen since 2012. Despite close statewide popular vote results, the GOP typically wins more seats.

“Because of maps designed to favor Republicans, Democrats would need to win by a nearly unprecedented nationwide margin in 2018 to gain control of the House of Representatives,” the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School said in an analysis released before the Court’s hearing. “To attain a bare majority, Democrats would likely have to win the national popular vote by nearly 11 points. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have won by such an overwhelming margin in decades. Even a strong blue wave would crash against a wall of gerrymandered maps.”

Maryland's Democratic Gerrymander

This week’s partisan gerrymandering case …read more


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LBJ Announced He Wouldn’t Run Again. Political Chaos Ensued

March 30, 2018 in History

By Matthew Dallek

View of anti Vietnam War demonstrators standing and protesting outside the White House during a march to the Pentagon in Washington DC to plead for an end to the conflict, 1967. (Credit: Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Fifty years ago, on March 31, 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson appeared on national television and announced that he was partially halting the U.S. bombing of Vietnam, and that he had decided not to seek his party’s nomination for president. “There is division in the American house now,” Johnson declared.

The news that the President had refused to seek re-election sent waves of shock and elation through a stunned electorate. At the same time, his withdrawal from the race crystallized the nature of the conflicts that had split the country along ideological, racial, and class lines so deeply. But within days it became all too apparent that no single act of political sacrifice could repair the divisions in the country. Johnson’s presidency was a symbol and a reflection of the nation’s fissures, but it was not ultimately its root cause.

Johnson himself alluded to the deep roots of the unraveling of America in his surprise announcement: “With America’s sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day,” he said, “I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office—the Presidency of your country.”

His refusal to run again was, on some basic level, a recognition of political reality. For all his legislative achievements (the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare and Medicaid), LBJ had become the face of America’s divisions. To those on the Right, Johnson had done too much, too quickly, overloading the system with big-government programs that trampled on individual liberties. Much of the Left viewed Johnson as the corrupt wheeler-dealer who had lied America into the disastrous, bloody Vietnam quagmire.

LBJ faced long odds in November; his top aides feared that he might not even win re-nomination. With his public approval rating at around 36 percent, LBJ had barely survived a surprisingly strong primary challenge from antiwar Sen. Eugene McCarthy in New Hampshire, who took 42 percent of the vote to LBJ’s 48 percent on March 12. Four days later, on March 16, New York Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, a long-time LBJ nemesis, declared that he, too, would challenge Johnson for the …read more


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Warnings of Koch Brothers' Influence After Shulkin Says VA Privatization Advocates Forced Him Out

March 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

“VA is govt-run healthcare that works, and for free market fundamentalists this simply must not be allowed to exist.”

Less than 24 hours after he was ousted as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by President Donald Trump, David Shulkin argued in an op-ed for the New York Times on Thursday that he was forced out by privatization advocates in the White House who saw him as an “obstacle” and warned that handing the department over to the private sector “is a terrible idea.”

Shulkin's account of his firing bolstered concerns expressed by lawmakers, veteran advocacy groups, and other analysts that the new opening at the VA could be seen as an opportunity by the Koch brothers and other far-right figures to dismantle a public healthcare institution which, through its very existence, poses a serious threat to the ideological agenda of “free market fundamentalists.”

“The private sector, already struggling to provide adequate access to care in many communities, is ill-prepared to handle the number and complexity of patients that would come from closing or downsizing VA,” Shulkin wrote on Thursday. “I can assure you that I will continue to speak out against those who seek to harm the VA by putting their personal agendas in front of the well-being of our veterans.”



As the government's second-largest agency, the VA has long been a major target of Charles and David Koch, who have used their “front group” Concerned Veterans for America to advocate pushing veterans into the private healthcare market and sharply reducing the department's budget.

Following Shulkin's termination Wednesday evening, many warned against characterizing the episode as a mere “staff shake-up” rather than as part of a concerted effort to privatize the VA.

“This whole business is not about David Shulkin. It's about the influence of the Koch brothers over the Trump administration and their desire …read more


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Is Trump Trying to Go to War?

March 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Rebecca Gordon, TomDispatch

With John Bolton in one ear and Mike Pompeo in the other, it's frighteningly possible.

A barely noticed anniversary slid by on March 20th. It’s been 15 years since the United States committed the greatest war crime of the twenty-first century: the unprovoked, aggressive invasion of Iraq. The New York Times, which didn’t exactly cover itself in glory in the run-up to that invasion, recently ran an op-ed by an Iraqi novelist living in the United States entitled “Fifteen Years Ago, America Destroyed My Country,” but that was about it. The Washington Post, another publication that (despite the recent portrayal of its Vietnam-era heroism in the movie The Post) repeatedly editorialized in favor of the invasion, marked the anniversary with a story about the war’s “murky” body count. Its piece concluded that at least 600,000 people died in the decade and a half of war, civil war, and chaos that followed — roughly the population of Washington, D.C.

These days, there’s a significant consensus here that the Iraq invasion was a “terrible mistake,” a “tragic error,” or even the “single worst foreign policy decision in American history.” Fewer voices are saying what it really was: a war crime. In fact, that invasion fell into the very category that led the list of crimes at the Nuremberg tribunal, where high Nazi officials were tried for their actions during World War II. During the negotiations establishing that tribunal and its rules, it was (ironically, in view of later events) the United States that insisted on including the crime of “waging a war of aggression” and on placing it at the head of the list. The U.S. position was that all the rest of Germany’s war crimes sprang from this first “crime against peace.”

Similarly, the many war crimes of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush — the extraordinary renditions; the acts of torture at Guantánamo, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and CIA black sites all over the world; …read more


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Trump's EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Caught Living in Prime D.C. Condo Owned by Top Energy Lobbyist's Wife: Report

March 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Travis Gettys, Raw Story

The corruption never ends.

President Donald Trump’s environmental chief has been living in a townhouse co-owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt occupies the home a short distance from the U.S. Capitol, but neither the agency or lobbyist J. Steven Hart would say how much the Trump administration official has been paying to live in the prime location, reported ABC News.

The cost of the rental agreement will be a key question in determining whether the property is an improper gift, according to ethics experts.

Hart confirmed to ABC News that Pruitt lived in the condo, which is owned through a limited liability company that links to an address owned by the lobbyist and his wife Vicki Hart — who is a lobbyist specializing in health care.

The Harts were described in 2010 by the newspaper Roll Call as a “lobbyist power couple.”

Steven Hart, chairman and CEO of Williams and Jensen, previously served in the Reagan Justice Department and is a top Republican fundraiser, and his firm reported more than $16 million in federal lobbying income last year.

“Among his many clients are the NRA and Cheniere Energy Inc., which reported paying Hart’s firm $80,000 a year,” ABC News reported.

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