Tag Archives: Democracy

Lindsey Graham Latest Republican to Admit GOP Tax Plan Is All About Keeping ‘Financial Contributions’ of Donors Flowing

“Republicans are literally out here warning each other that their big donors will stop writing checks if they don’t do their bidding.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-9-2017

As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) has made a similar remark, complaining that his donors are pressuring him to pass enormous tax cuts or “don’t ever call me again.” (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday became the latest Republican to admit the GOP is trying to ram through massive tax cuts for the rich to satisfy its wealthy donors, telling a journalist that if the party’s tax push fails, “the financial contributions will stop.”

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Half a Million March in Massive Uprising Against Spanish Plan to Overtake Catalonia

Catalans poured into the streets of Barcelona Saturday following the Spanish prime minister announcement that he would move to take control of their region

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-21-2017

Catalans did not take the news that Spanish Prime Minister will move to impose direct rule on their region quietly on Saturday. Nearly half a million people marched in Barcelona soon after the prime minister’s press conference.

Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia, joined the demonstration before a planned speech responding to Mariano Rajoy’s statement that pending the approval of the senate, which his party controls, he would remove the Catalan government from power and call for a special election in the coming months.

The protesters chanted, “Freedom!” and “Rajoy, Rajoy, so you know we are leaving!” Continue reading

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Trump Revives Notorious GOP Dog Whistle in Call for ‘Welfare Reform’

Like Reagan before him, Trump is deploying the infamous “welfare queen” myth to justify shredding the safety net

Written by Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-16-2017.

President Trump. Image via youtube.

Rehashing a notorious Republican Party trope that accuses some Americans of cheating safety net programs, President Donald Trump on Monday saidhis administration is looking “very, very strongly” at “welfare reform.”

“People are taking advantage of the system and then other people aren’t receiving what they really need to live and we think it is very unfair to them,” Trump said during a meeting with cabinet officials. “Some people are really taking advantage of our system from that standpoint.”

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The welfare system was last “reformed” during the administration of former President Bill Clinton, and the results were devastating.

According to research by sociologists Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer, extreme poverty more than doubled in the two decades following the passage in 1996 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which imposed draconian work requirements on welfare recipients and converted federal welfare funds into block grants.

Now, Trump appears to be preparing to shred what is left of the social safety net. And as Clio Chang of Splinter News points out, Trump is deploying the same rhetorical formula as his welfare-slashing predecessors.

“It’s not difficult to decode what Trump’s saying,” Chang notes. “It’s the same tired line that politicians from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton have been using for decades: that some (read: mainly black) people are unfairly receiving welfare benefits and siphoning resources away from good, hard-working (read: mainly white) people. Reagan infamously spread the ‘welfare queen’ myth in the 1970s, a dog whistle that asserted black, single mothers were bilking the government’s welfare system.”

While Trump didn’t propose any specific changes to the welfare system on Monday, previous reports—along with his administration’s previous actions—have indicated that crucial safety net programs are squarely in the president’s crosshairs.

In one of his first speeches as president, Trump asserted that the American welfare system is “out of control,” and that people on welfare need to get “back to work”—despite the fact that most welfare recipients already have jobs.

And as Politico reported earlier this month, Trump is “mulling an executive order that would instruct federal agencies to review low-income assistance programs [as] part of a coming effort to make sweeping changes to the country’s welfare system.”

Trump’s Republican allies in the Senate, meanwhile, are gearing up to vote on a budget that would make room for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and over $5 trillion in non-defense spending cuts—including $470 billion from Medicare and $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade.

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Urging Diplomacy, China Warns Trump’s North Korea Threats Could ‘Backfire Bigly’

The Chinese Foreign Ministry demands an end to Trump’s threats and name-calling

Written by Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-12-2017.

President Trump waiting to address the United Nations last month, where he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” after Kim Jong-un’s regime conducted several missile tests. (Photo: United Nations/Flickr/cc)

Borrowing a word that subjected President Donald Trump to ridicule during the 2016 campaign, an editorial in the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily warned that Trump’s threats of war with North Korea could “backfire bigly,” and quoted high-level Beijing officials who urged the U.S. to engage in dialogue with Kim Jong-un’s regime.

“Trump has repeatedly made clear his distaste for dialogue with and preference for military action against the DPRK,” wrote Curtis Stone. “But war on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic, and dialogue remains the best option.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said the two parties should return to negotiations it held from 2003 to 2009 at the direction of the United Nations Security Council, resulting in a suspension of North Korea’s use of its plutonium-producing reactor.

“We hope that various parties can strictly observe and implement the U.N. Security Council resolutions, refrain from provoking each other and aggravating the contradiction, [and] exercise restraint and caution to ease the tension,” Hua Chunying said this week.

The editorial was released on the heels of Trump’s decision to send two strategic bombers over the Korea peninsula on Tuesday, and his latest tweets in which he said talks with North Korea have made “fools of U.S. negotiators” and “only one thing will work” to deter the isolated country from further nuclear proliferation and testing.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho responded to the military flyover with a statement about Trump’s speech at the U.N. last month, in which he threatened to “totally destroy” the country of 25 million people.

“By his bellicose and insane statement in the U.N. arena, Trump―it can be said―lit the wick of the war against us. We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words.”

China stressed that both sides need to acknowledge the other party’s viewpoint, rather than sowing discord by engaging in name-calling and threats.

“Only by addressing the legitimate security concern of various parties in a balanced manner can we truly open the door to peacefully resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. To this end, various parties need to show more sincerity, sit down at the negotiating table, enhance mutual trust through dialogue, and seek a viable way out for peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue through negotiation.”

In the U.S., Trump’s escalating and threatening rhetoric has caused anxiety among many. A poll released Wednesday by the Associated Press found that 65 percent of Americans think Trump’s rhetoric has made the situation worse, and 45 percent say he’s made it “much worse.” Only eight percent of respondents approved of his handling of tensions with North Korea.

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Bolstering Case for Impeachment, Study Concludes Trump ‘Likely Obstructed Justice’

A detailed analysis finds “substantial” evidence to support claims that Trump attempted to undermine an ongoing investigation by firing former FBI director James Comey

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Image via CNN Twitter

In a new study aimed at collecting and analyzing all of the relevant facts surrounding President Donald Trump’s legally questionable conduct in office—particularly his firing of former FBI director James Comey—three lawyers conclude it is “likely” that Trump has obstructed justice, and that whether he is held accountable for his actions “will have significant consequences for the functioning of our democracy.”

“We do not yet know all the relevant facts, and any final determination must await further investigation, including by Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” concludes the Brookings Institute report—authored by Norm Eisen and Noah Bookbinder of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) and Barry Berke of the law firm Kramer Levin.

Nonetheless, the lawyers argue that the facts currently in the public record amount to “substantial evidence that President Trump attempted to obstruct the investigations into Michael Flynn and Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election through various actions, including the termination of James Comey.”

“Demanding the loyalty of an individual involved in an investigation, requesting that individual’s help to end the investigation, and then ultimately firing that person to accomplish that goal are the types of acts that have frequently resulted in obstruction convictions,” the analysis notes, citing the impeachment proceedings against former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, as well as Judges Samuel Kent and Harry Claiborne.

In all of these cases, the lawyers observe, “Congress has…considered obstruction, conspiracy, and conviction of a federal crime to be valid reasons to remove a duly elected president from office.”

The study goes on to highlight several pieces of evidence that could form a cumulative case that Trump obstructed an ongoing investigation, including:

  • Trump’s “fabrication” of his initial reason for firing Comey (which was that Comey poorly handled the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server);
  • Trump’s role in crafting his son Donald Trump Jr.’s “inaccurate statements about the purpose of his meeting with a Russian lawyer” during the 2016 presidential campaign;
  • Trump’s threat to Comey that he “better hope there are no ‘tapes'” of their conversations; and
  • Trump’s repeated denunciations of the investigation into his conduct, which he has called a “fake” scandal drummed up by Democrats angry that they lost the election.

While the authors conclude by noting that the “appropriateness of impeaching the president on the grounds discussed” is “ultimately a matter of congressional discretion,” the relevant precedents, as well as the large body of evidence, indicate that Congress would have sufficient justification if it chose to do so.

As recent polling data demonstrates, such a move would likely be applauded by a large portion of the American public.

According to a Public Religion Research Institute survey in August, 40 percent of Americans believe Trump should be impeached—up 10 percentage points over a period of six months.

Most Americans also side with Eisen, Bookbinder, and Berke on the matter of obstruction of justice. A recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling found that 49 percent of Americans believe Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey.

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Iraqi Kurdistan: the fight for a seat at the table of nations

The result of Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence referendum was never in doubt, but the budding state’s future is.

By Charles Glass. Published 10-6-2017 by openDemocracy

Photo: Twitter

Of the 72 percent of registered voters who turned up at the polls, a little more than 93 percent opted to separate their homeland from Iraq. Independence, however, is fraught with the dangers of disputed borders, ferocious opposition from its neighbors and internal dissent.

As a longtime “friend of the Kurds” who made his first illegal attempt to enter Iraqi Kurdistan from Iran in 1974 with ABC News’ Peter Jennings but succeeded many times thereafter, I want to see them free and secure. More than that, my wish is to see them avoid the destruction and displacement of the kind that Saddam Hussein inflicted on them in 1975, 1988 and 1991, when the United States abandoned them to their fate. Their leaders would be well advised to proceed with caution. The Iraqi Kurds’ antagonistic leaders are Massoud Barzani in Arbil and Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, a formidable woman who acts as a kind of regent while her husband, former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, languishes in a semi-coma. The Barzanis and Talabanis, though rivals, guided their people through the dark years of genocide by the Iraqi government and brought them to the semi-independent status they enjoy today. For that, they deserve our respect. They probably do not deserve my advice, but I’ll offer it anyway. Continue reading

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#FairMaps: Pro-Democracy Rally as Supreme Court Hears ‘Most Significant’ Voting Rights Case in Decades

“Make no mistake about it: Extreme partisan gerrymandering is corruption. It’s a cancer on democracy. End it now!”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-3-2017

“Gerrymandering has no value in our democracy,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil and Human Rights. (Photo: Janai Nelson/Twitter)

Wielding signs that read “hands off our districts” and “you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your voters,” hundreds of civil rights advocates, lawyers, and lawmakers rallied in the nation’s capital Tuesday as the Supreme Court heard arguments in a landmark redistricting case that poses “the most serious challenge to gerrymandering in modern times.”

The case under consideration—Gill v. Whitford—is the result of a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin voters and the Campaign Legal Center in 2015 alleging that Republican-drawn state district lines violated the rights of Democratic voters. In 2016, a federal court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, arguing that the GOP’s district maps amounted to “an aggressive partisan gerrymander” and ordered the lines redrawn.  Continue reading

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More Than 700 Injured as Spanish Police Try to Prevent Catalan Independence Vote

The Spanish government’s “unjustified use of violence,” says regional leader Carles Puigdemont, “will not stop the will of the Catalan people.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-1-2017

Police beating firemen in Girona. Photo: Gerry Lynch/Twitter

Update:

As of Sunday afternoon, more than 760 people were injured in Catalonia after Spanish police clashed with voters who attempted to cast votes for the region’s independence referendum, which Madrid has deemed unconstitutional, Reuters reports.

Despite the reports of violence, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy praised the police force for its actions in Catalonia Sunday.

Alarming photos and videos continued to circulate on social media into the evening:

Earlier:

Catalan officials say Spanish police have injured more than 330 people who tried to vote during Catalonia’s independence referendum on Sunday.

Madrid has declared the vote unconstitutional, but Catalan citizens and members of the regional government have vowed to move forward with it. In recent days they have protested by the thousands, and even occupied more than 160 local schools that were set to serve as polling stations, in attempts to avoid the national police’s promise to prevent voting.

The BBC reports:

Police officers are preventing people from voting, and seizing ballot papers and boxes at polling stations. In the regional capital Barcelona, police used batons and fired rubber bullets during pro-referendum protests.

Catalan emergency services said they had treated 38 people who were injured when police pushed back crowds of voters and forced their way into polling stations. The Spanish interior ministry said 11 police officers had been injured.

Catalan firefighters even battled with police officers on Sunday, trying to protect voters from the national police. Videos of their exchanges quickly circulated on Twitter:

As police continue to seize ballot materials, Catalan government officials are allowing voters to print their own ballot papers and use any open polling station if theirs is shut down. Ballot papers simply as voters “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” and instruct them to check a box for “Yes” or “No.”

The regional government leader Carles Puigdemont condemned violence by the national police and Guardia Civil, who were sent to Catalonia to help with Madrid’s effort to stop the vote.

“The unjustified use of violence,” Puigdemont said, “by the Spanish state will not stop the will of the Catalan people.”

Several public figures outside of Spain turned to social media on Sunday to condemn the violence:

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Southern Kurdistan’s Referendum: Self-Destiny doesn’t need Permission

Every flower that sprouts in the mountains had to first break through a rock.

By. Dr. Thoreau Redcrow. Published 9-22-2017 by the Region

Rallies and celebrations take place throughout Kurdistan as the referendum vote approaches Monday’s date.. Photo: Al Arabiya/Twitter

 

In a few days on September 25th the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of Southern Kurdistan / Bashur (i.e. northern “Iraq”) is set to hold a non-binding aspirational referendum on their region’s independence. For many of the 6+ million Kurds of Bashur it is undoubtedly a day they have dreamt of or longed for; perhaps even a chance which seemed all but a fantasy through the billowing smoke of chemical bombs in Hełebce, or Saddam’s mass graves of the 1980’s.

Moreover, although this referendum is only related to one of the four regions of Greater Kurdistan—leaving those 20+ million Kurds of southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), 12 million Kurds of northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan), and 2-3 million Kurds of northern Syria (Western Kurdistan) awaiting their own eventual ‘independence day’—I have still anecdotally witnessed a surge in Kurdish patriotism and excitement throughout wider Kurdistan and the diaspora at the possibility that the first of the four dominoes may finally fall. Continue reading

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‘Spitting in the Eye of Transparency,’ Govt Reveals Just 22 Mar-a-Lago Visitors

Watchdog groups promise to keep fighting Trump administration in court after it refuses to release full list of presidential visitors to so-called Winter White House

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-15-2017

On Friday, the Trump administration released a list of visitors from President Donald Trump’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. (Photo: Shealah Craighead/TheWhite House)

“See you in court, Mr. President,” a watchdog group warned on Friday, after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under pressure from a federal lawsuit, released just two pages of Mar-a-Lago visitor records, despite earlier promises to reveal the full list of visitors to President Donald Trump’s so-called Winter White House.

After waiting months for a response to our request for comprehensive visitor logs from the president’s multiple visits to Mar-a-Lago and having the government ask for a last minute extension, today we received 22 names from the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Mar-a-Lago, and nothing else,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Continue reading

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