RESISTANCE WATCH-In normal times, Dee from New York would have ordered her copy of The Handmaid’s Tale from Amazon, but these are not normal times. Amazon is on the Grab Your Wallet list, a campaign to boycott retailers that sell Trump family products, which began as a response to the video revealing our now-president’s penchant for grabbing women "by the pussy." Dee bought her book from a smaller retailer instead.
RESISTANCE WATCH--Putting a fine point on the spin that President Donald Trump's trip to the Middle East has been a glowing, peace-dealing success, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross praised the fact that there were no protesters in Saudi Arabia—a nation where political dissonance is punishable by death. (Photo: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross)
Speaking to CNBC on Monday, Ross, who accompanied Trump on the weekend trip to Riyadh, said he found it "fascinating" that he did not see "a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard."
In turn, "Squawk Box" host Becky Quick pointed out "that might be—not necessarily because they don't have those feelings there—but because they control people and don't allow them to come and express their feelings the same way we do here."
"In theory, that could be true, but boy there was certainly no sign of it," Ross responded. "There was not a single effort at any incursion. There wasn't anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood."
He also noted that the Saudi security guards "all wanted to pose for a big photo op" before he left, after which they gifted him "two gigantic bushels of dates."
The remarks immediately caught the ear of Middle East experts and other observers.
Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in the Center for Middle East Policy, told CNBC afterwards that Saudi Arabia is among the "most repressive" of free speech in the Middle East, adding: "Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy which forbids any political protest or any manifestation of dissent. It is also a police state that beheads opponents."
Others took to social media to highlight how outrageous Ross's statement was:
The New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait wrote, "Ross is a superficial man, inexperienced in foreign affairs, and easily manipulated by symbolism." However, Chait continued, "he also clearly looks at a society where, unlike the United States, he can sweep through his day without encountering any evidence of political discontent. And he sees in this something to admire."
This is in keeping with Trump, of whom Chait observed: "Rather than hypocritically overlook the authoritarianism of our allies, he actually admires it."
Similarly, the Washington Post's Philip Bump pointed out, "Few Americans have been as publicly vocal about their opposition to protests than Ross's boss, President Trump. One of his first tweets as president-elect and one of his first tweets as president both focused on disparaging protests against him."
Ross is the same administration official who described Trump's bombing of Syria as "after dinner entertainment."
(Lauren McCauley writes for Common Dreams [[commondreams.org]] … where this perspective originated.)
RESISTANCE WATCH--Monday brought a victory for voting rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a lower court's decision that struck down North Carolina's controversial voter ID law. According to Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, the development means "[a]n ugly chapter in voter suppression is finally closing."
A federal appeals court last year found that law, which shrunk the early voting period and stopped the practice of pre-registering teenagers in addition to the ID requirement, was racially discriminatory as it targeted "African Americans with almost surgical precision."
Now, Ho added, the law has met "its much-deserved demise."
The ACLU, along with other civil rights groups, had challenged the law, which was passed in the wake of the high court's decision in Shelby v. Holder. That decision was decried as having "sounded the death knell" for a key provision in the Voting Rights Act.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also applauded the announcement, with its president and executive director, Kristen Clarke, saying it "now renders North Carolina's law null and void, and brings to close a long and protracted battle over a law deemed one of the most egregious voter suppression measures of its kind."
It also, according to Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, "tells the people of North Carolina and across the country that the right to vote unencumbered by expansive restrictions or by racist politicians or racist policies is fundamental, and that under the laws of the land, it will be upheld.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) took to Twitter to call it "a huge victory against sham voter ID laws written to suppress the vote."
"Next," she continued, "we must restore the #VotingRightsAct gutted by #SCOTUS."
(Andrea Germanos writes for the excellent Common Dreams … where this report originated.)
RESISTANCE WATCH-- “I’m now back to being an activist citizen and part of the resistance,” Hillary Clinton said on May 2 during a televised conversation with Christiane Amanpour at an event for Women for Women International. Clinton is identifying with the broad popular resistance that has mobilized against Donald Trump after the 2016 election, and she is not the only Democrat to do so. The party that failed to win either the Senate or the White House last November is positioning itself as the best bulwark against Trumpism. In March, newly elected Democratic National Chairman Tom Perez announced triumphantly: “We’re going to be the resistance to Donald Trump. ... We have the most important lever of power, the power of we, the most important word in a democracy.”
It is tempting to see the Democratic Party as the only way out of the Trumpocalypse. But let’s not be fooled. Before Clinton called herself part of the “resistance,” she was a self-proclaimed centrist and moderate.
American voters fell into three broad categories last November, the smallest of which voted for Trump (25.5 percent). Edging just a sliver ahead of him was Clinton with the second-largest number of voters (25.6 percent). Larger than either of those groups by far was the group that simply did not vote (46.9 percent). If the 1.7 percent of conservative voters who chose Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson had cast ballots for Trump instead, Clinton’s impressive-sounding popular vote margin of 3 million voters, which she touted proudly at the event with Amanpour this week, would have been eviscerated.
Clinton also stated unequivocally that had the election taken place before FBI Director James Comey publicized that the FBI was reviving its investigation into her emails, she would have certainly won the election. She cited pollster Nate Silver, who posited that Comey’s unorthodox statements had an impact on undecided voters in swing states. She also blamed WikiLeaks for leaking her campaign’s internal emails at inopportune times. But at no point did she explain why her vote margin against the worst, most clownish candidate in recent memory was so close that one bad allegation could ruin her chance at the White House. Nor did she refute the veracity of the leaked emails, which confirmed so many Americans’ view of her as corrupt and beholden to Wall Street.
It is likely true that Clinton would have been president today had tiny aberrations that occurred over the course her campaign not thrown her catastrophically off course. But her campaign should have been far more immune to such aberrations given her rival. If Clinton had been truer to the Democrats’ stated principles of progressivism and put forth a Bernie Sanders-like platform of economic justice with a strong critique of big banks and Wall Street, her poll numbers would likely have been higher than Trump’s, and the damaging revelations from Comey and WikiLeaks might not have made enough of a difference to cost her the election.
It is true that had Clinton become president, she would have made a much better “statesman,” conducting foreign policy like her Democratic predecessors—Barack Obama and her own husband—with a combination of diplomacy and merciless bombing justified through eloquent denouncements of terrorism. Speaking to Amanpour, she said with impressive maturity, “Negotiations are critical. But they’ve got to be part of a broader strategy, not just thrown out on a tweet one morning and say, ‘Hey, let’s get together and see if we can’t get along.’ ” Indeed, it would be unimaginable for Clinton to have used social media to sow confusion and chaos through impetuous tantrums, as does the current White House occupant. But would Clinton’s foreign policy have been terribly different than Trump’s as viewed from the war zones we have targeted? As if taking foreign policy advice from his former rival, Trump bombed Syrian government targets just hours after Clinton said about Bashar al Assad’s Syrian regime: “I really believe we should have and still should take out his airfields.”
While Clinton is examining what led to her loss, and a new book, “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign,” co-authored by Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen, has attempted to dig into the minutiae of the story, there is little examination of why the percentage of Americans who voted for Clinton was so close to the percentage of Americans who voted for Trump, or why even more Americans rejected both candidates. Many of us are scratching our heads at why there is so little regret among Trump voters 100 days into his presidency, as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed. There is anecdotal evidence of regret among some Trump voters, but only 4 percent said they would back another candidate today. Meanwhile, according to the poll, a whopping 15 percent of Clinton voters regret backing her. Trump supporters trust their president, and no amount of news coverage exposing his lying, flip-flopping or blustering will persuade them to change their minds—because he has convinced them that the media perpetuates “fake news.”
A very small sample of Trump supporters explained to Vice News how they feel about the president after his first 100 days. What is most interesting about these responses is that some of them acknowledge Trump’s stumbling on the Affordable Care Act and actually back a single-payer system, with one person saying, “I want socialized health care.” With most Democrats having thrown their weight behind the Affordable Care Act instead of backing the hugely popular single-payer system, it is no wonder so many Americans stayed home on election day.
Trump voters also told Vice that they are happy Clinton is not president. One person went so far as to say, “I do not trust Trump,” but added, “What I can say is that I have absolutely no regrets voting for him over Hillary.”
The political dialogue over last November’s election remains important because it is crucial for those of us who want progressive change in this country to not fall into the Democratic Party trap once more and pour all our energy into electing its members. If the Democratic Party sucks up the energy of the resistance to Trump, we will be right back where we started last year. If the Democrats couldn’t beat Trump in 2016, they won’t beat the Republican Party in 2018, and they won’t beat Trump in 2020—unless they change their tune. The only way to get them to change is to force them to adopt progressive ideals in deed, not just in word. Clinton and Perez trying to tie themselves to the resistance is bad news for progressives. The resistance to Trump should not be tainted by establishment Democrats.
Since January the mass demonstrations, from the Women’s March to the May Day march, have shown an impressive opposition to Trump’s madness. Grass-roots organizing at Congressional town hall meetings have thus far helped keep the Republicans’ macabre vision of health care at bay. Unfortunately, there have been a disturbing number of people within the movement echoing Clinton’s line on “Russian interference” with the election as a way to explain why Trump is in office. We are desperate to understand why and how such a madman has hijacked our democracy, and a sordid tale of backroom corruption is much more seductive than the more mundane and discomforting explanation that Clinton was not good enough.
If Democratic Party members can simply sweep away all the real reasons why non-Democratic Party loyalists don’t trust them, they can continue to try to win elections without translating their stated ideals into policy, and most of the time they will lose as they have been doing. But that means that most of the time Republicans will win, to the detriment of all of us, not just the Democratic Party.
Clinton may want to consider herself part of the resistance. But we must resist the temptation to have her on our side. The resistance must reject Clinton, Clintonism and the establishment Democratic Party if it wants to truly undo the Trump presidency
(Sonali Kolhatkar is Co-Director of the Afghan Women's Mission and a political writer at TruthDig …where this piece was first posted.)
RESISTANCE WATCH--One of Trump’s most horrendous campaign promises was to build a border wall — a divisive structure that will not keep us safe from harm nor create infrastructure to help our country fix crumbling roads and bridges.
There are countless examples of the failure of our nation’s outdated, underfunded infrastructure. Hurricane Katrina and the levees in New Orleans. Lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan. The crumbling Oroville dam and resulting evacuation in Northern California. These are all cases of critical structures that year after year are not properly funded in the federal budget.
Trump is either oblivious to or unmoved by the consequences of these catastrophic events on American lives as he remains fixated on the costly wall, even as his administration was forced to pull back the budget allotted for it to prevent a government shutdown.
Resistance from Congress, and from grassroots efforts in cities and nationwide, is gaining momentum. Infrastructure aside, the symbolism of this wall deeply offends American values. It has increased racist anti-immigrant rhetoric and communicated to the entire world that people seeking refuge in America are not welcome here.
Here in Los Angeles in early May, my organization, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), joined Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo when he announced a motion requiring companies seeking contracts with the City to publicly disclose if they are also submitting contracting bids to build the controversial border wall. This proposal, which is the first of its kind, would also impose strict penalties and fines on any company who fails to disclose this required information.
The motion is aimed at ensuring transparency in the City’s contracting process. Nearly two out of three Angelenos are either immigrants or the children of immigrants who are a vital part of the City’s economic engine. Immigrants contribute billions of dollars in income and make up a significant percentage of both the workforce and business community.
Cedillo’s colleagues on the Los Angeles City Council agreed that residents deserve to know how public funding is spent, and whether or not they are supporting individuals or entities who are involved in the construction of a colossal barrier that is chilling and morally unacceptable to a majority of Angelenos.
Los Angeles labor groups have firmly supported the motion. Rusty Hicks, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, said, “Our message is fairly simple – no wall, no way, not now, not ever. Los Angeles will enshrine the values of respect and inclusion, and reject the false notion that we have to choose between a good job and the safety and well-being of our immigrant neighbors.
Nationally, the Partnership for Working Families (PWF), a national network of leading regional advocacy organizations, has pushed for companies to publicly disclose their affiliation with the border wall. PWF called on Berkshire Hathaway, the company with the largest capacity to provide bonding required for federal construction projects, to publicly commit not to insure the border wall or detention centers.
The pressure is working. Most recently, Zachry Federal Construction Corporation and Shimmick Construction Co. have pulled out of the border wall bidding process. That means that at least 13 companies, including seven of the largest 25 design-build firms, have said they are not bidding.
“It’s bad enough that Trump is focusing his energy on dividing families rather than rebuilding our country,” said Nikki Fortunato Bas, Executive Director of the Partnership for Working Families. “We’re demanding that companies stand up for what is right and refuse to profit off of this politics of hate.”
Whether in Los Angeles or nationally, labor and community leaders are fighting the same fight alongside immigrant rights and other social justice groups. Together, we are resisting, and we are rejecting the false notion that we must choose between jobs and the safety and well-being of our neighbors. We insist that immigrants are not only welcome here — they are critical to the success and the life of our communities and our nation’s economy — and we will never support the building of a border wall.
(Roxana Tynan is Executive Director of the Los Angeles Alliance for New Economy.)
RESISTANCE WATCH--"Just when we thought all hope was lost, common sense prevailed today in the United States Congress," said Jessica Ennis, senior legislative representative with the environmental law organization Earthjustice.
That's because the Senate on Wednesday failed to pass a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would have killed an Obama-era Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rule that limits methane flaring from fossil fuel production on federal and tribal lands.
"Methane is a potent contributor to climate change, and letting companies simply vent or flare methane in vast quantities from their operations on publicly-owned lands is foolhardy," explained Jeremy Martin, senior scientist with the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). "That’s why it's so important that we protect common-sense standards, and why this resolution deserved a 'no' vote."
That vote was 49-51, with three Republicans—Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Jon McCain of Arizona—joining Democrats in voting "no."
The House already voted to kill the rule, which environmental groups said amounted to "giving away a taxpayer-owned resource for free," and was thanks to the CRA, "a dirty trick that Congress can use to do the oil industry's bidding."
If the resolution had been successful in the Senate, it would have made making fossil fuel companies accountable for their pollution "nearly impossible," said UCS's Martin—"not only would it have overturned current rules, it would have blocked future administrations from setting standards."
Now, with that effort stopped, climate campaigners are cheering, though "[t]he fact that Congress even considered this giveaway to the oil industry is stunning," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "We applaud the senators who stepped up to kill this resolution, ensuring that people will breath cleaner air and saving taxpayers millions of dollars."
According to Lukas Ross, Friends of the Earth's climate and energy campaigner, the vote marks a "victory against Trump's plan to hand our public lands to Big Oil [and] is a win for the American people. Reducing venting and flaring from oil wells will reduce emissions contributing to climate change and save public resources. Today the Senate proved it will not always rob taxpayers to line Big Oil's pockets," he continued.
Still, it's not the time for climate campaigners to put their guard down.
"While we have beaten back this attack on the BLM methane rule, we know that Trump and his Big Oil cronies are eyeing other avenues," Ross cautioned. "An earlier Executive Order already instructs [Interior Department] Secretary Zinke to examine how to give Big Oil an ever bigger share of our public lands. We will continue to fight against any efforts to endanger the future of our lands and our climate," he said.
(Andrea Germanos writes for the excellent Common Dreams where this report was first posted.)
RESISTANCE WATCH--A scientist who studies protests said this week that the resistance to President Donald Trump is building momentum, not losing it, and the movement's continued existence could be a signal that Americans are changing how they participate in democracy.
Sociologist Dana Fisher told the Washington Post in an interview published Wednesday that she hadn't seen major protests in the nation's capital in the five years she'd lived in the area, but that demonstrations have now become an almost-weekly occurrence.
Few of her students at the University of Maryland used to participate in activism, but these days "everybody has to get out of class to go downtown because they're chaining themselves to something or they're marching," she told the Post's Sarah Kaplan.
Fisher found that there was a lot of crossover between events, with 70 percent of participants at the recent Peoples Climate March having also come out for the Women's March in January. She also found that reports of "resistance fatigue" have been exaggerated.
"What I think this is showing is that there are people who are getting involved and staying involved and coming out even if it's every weekend,” Fisher said. "There's only so many weekends in a row you want to march, but we have not hit that exhaustion yet."
The rise of mainstream activism could mean that average people are becoming more engaged with politics.
"Many Americans no longer feel like their concerns are being heard just by voting" every four years, she said.
"Are they really civically engaged, are they going to do something before the midterm election, or are they going to go back to watch TV?" Fisher posited. "The data we have collected so far suggest they are not going back to watching TV."
(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams … where this report originated.)