OtherWords – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Mon, 26 Oct 2020 05:17:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.15 Amy Coney Barrett Has No Business Ruling on This Election https://www.juancole.com/2020/10/barrett-business-election.html Fri, 09 Oct 2020 04:02:09 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193756 By Rev. Susan K. Smith

The president has openly said he expects her to back him in a contested election. She should recuse herself — and we should resist her.

( Otherwords.org ) – Well before Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to the United States Supreme Court, every step in the frenzied process had seemed terribly amiss.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his party are playing by two sets of rules, ramming through Donald Trump’s nomination to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during an election year, despite McConnell’s refusal in 2016 to hold a hearing for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

McConnell claimed at the time that no Supreme Court nomination should be processed in an election year, and that “the people should decide” after the election. Four years later, “the people” apparently only includes those whom McConnell decides should be considered.

As polls continue to indicate that Trump may lose the election, McConnell has thrown away his concern for “the people” out with the garbage in fealty to Trump.

Now comes Barrett, whose record is quite troubling.

Barrett will likely provide the final vote to gut the Affordable Care Act, which could throw 20 million Americans off their health insurance. She may also help overturn Roe v. Wade. Both are goals that conservatives have tried to achieve for years.

She is also likely to vote against Black people’s civil rights, as she has in the past. Conservatives will likely try and soften this record by noting she is the mother of two adopted Black Haitian children — despite her nomination by a president who called that country a “s—hole.”

In addition to Barrett’s concerning record, Trump has admitted outright that he needs this vacancy filled immediately to give him a conservative majority on the Supreme Court to rule on cases that could emerge out of a contested election.

Stunningly, Barrett recently indicated in her Senate questionnaire that she has no intention of recusing herself from such cases.

In the past, many Americans believed that our government was fool-proof against authoritarianism. There was a sense that ethics, protocol, and precedent would prevail in our political and legal systems. But for many of us, that trust has since evaporated.

The Trump administration has shown that they believe the rich and powerful are above the law. They call for “law and order,” but do not believe it applies to them. Now it seems that Barrett may join their ranks.

For months, Trump has spread misinformation about the integrity of our elections. He has called for his base to go to the polls on Election Day to intimidate voters, and has encouraged people to break the law and vote for him twice. He has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power and has been clear that he will rely on the Supreme Court to determine the winner of the election.

That should be evidence enough that this president is an agent of chaos who is intent on dismantling our government, and our democratic norms and values. There are many reasons not to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and we will raise our voices about all of them.

But if she is confirmed, out of love for her country, respect for American democracy, and her professed commitment to God, Barrett should stand firm against Trump’s lawlessness and lack of moral principle and recuse herself from election-related matters.

That’s the least she can do.

Rev. Susan K. Smith is an ordained minister and the director of Crazy Faith Ministries in Columbus, Ohio. She serves on People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers In Action. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Sen. Van Hollen: Barrett ‘Should Recuse Herself’ From Any Split Decision On Election Results | MSNBC

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How Trump gave $1 bn allocated for Masks for Troops, Families, to Arms Firms Instead https://www.juancole.com/2020/10/allocated-families-instead.html Sun, 04 Oct 2020 04:01:21 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193632 By Phyllis Bennis | –

Make no mistake: The Trump administration’s heartlessness and militarism are costing lives.

(Foreign Policy in Focus) – As the pandemic continues to claim lives across the country, new information keeps coming out about how the Trump administration has made it harder for Americans to protect themselves.

We now know, for example, that early in the pandemic the U.S. Postal Service had planned to deliver five face masks to every U.S. household. It could have made mask-wearing a lot more common a lot earlier — and maybe saved a lot of lives. But the White House scrapped the idea.

Now we also know that the Trump administration took $1 billion in stimulus funds that were supposed to go towards making masks and other protective equipment for the pandemic — and gave most of it to weapons manufacturers.

Those funds were part of $10.6 billion in CARES Act money allocated to the Pentagon — a staggering sum, especially since the bloated military budget already claims 53 cents of every discretionary federal dollar available to Congress.

The Pentagon’s CARES money was supposed to help military employees and military families survive the pandemic.

The $1 billion in question was granted under a special law that lets the Pentagon require companies to manufacture urgently needed goods in case of a national emergency. This time, it was to make sure companies producing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like N-95 masks, ventilators, and more, were making all they could.

But most of that money didn’t go to making PPE at all. Trump’s defense department gave it to corporations that make jet engines, drone flight controllers, and dress uniforms for the military. Two-thirds of it was distributed in big contracts worth more than $5 million each.

The military says that the “health” of the defense industry is crucial to national security. But the CARES Act money was specifically allocated to protect the health of the people of this country — not the companies that build weapons.

This comes at a moment when U.S. military spending is already near all-time highs — and when military contractors are doing better than lots of other companies.

“Major defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman,” the Washington Post reports, “have remained financially healthy despite some pandemic-related disruption, and have continued to pay stock dividends to investors.”

Indeed, the CEOs of those companies rank among the highest paid corporate executives in the country. Last year General Dynamics’s CEO raked in $18 million, Northrup Grumman’s made $20 million, and Lockheed-Martin’s pulled in a whopping $31 million.

Still, many of those same military corporations paid out of the $1 billion Pentagon slush fund also applied for — and received — funds from the federal Paycheck Protection Program that Congress designated specifically to prevent COVID-related lay-offs. These extra Pentagon grants came on top of that, except without any requirements to protect jobs. Those companies could take the money and still fire as many employees as they want.

An additional $1 billion would have made a huge difference in the fight against COVID-19. My colleagues at the Institute for Policy Studies found that $1 billion could have funded nearly 28 million COVID-19 tests or purchased over 294 million N-95 respirator masks.

What makes us safer in the pandemic — access to more testing and a lot more face masks, or helping military corporations and their CEOs make a killing on our tax money?

Add that to the canceled Postal Service plan to distribute hundreds of millions more masks, and the record keeps getting more appalling. Make no mistake: The Trump administration’s heartlessness and militarism are costing lives.

Via Foreign Policy in Focus

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Rebel HQ: “BREAKING: Pentagon Funneled Pandemic Funds To Defense Contractors”

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Ginsburg Would Want Women to Fight, Not Despair https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/ginsburg-would-despair.html Tue, 29 Sep 2020 04:03:30 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193529 By Sophia Paslaski | –

(Otherwords.org ) – The late justice dedicated her career to women and other marginalized Americans, and we owe her the same faith she had in us. By | September 23, 2020

In August 1993, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg took her seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. I was two months old. You could say we both accomplished a lot that summer.

Now, some 27 years later, the pair of us have accomplished so much more.

Ginsburg composed some of history’s most iconic dissenting opinions, inspired an entire generation of cynics to believe in a better America, and earned the highest honor bestowed by millennials: memehood.

I didn’t write any famous opinions, but I did learn the bilingual lyrics to “Oh, Canada,” in case I needed to fake Canadian while traveling abroad.

Yeah, I’m one of the cynics. But even with all that cynicism, many millennial women believed in some higher power of justice when we looked at Ginsburg — affectionately known to many as the “Notorious RBG.”

Unflappable, eloquent, and precise, RBG gave us heart when we had none. Her words, and her famous dissent collar, were the promised consolation for every attack on the common good. In the months following the 2016 election, she granted a rare interview in which she spoke of optimism.

“We are not experiencing the best of times,” she told the BBC. “But there is hope in seeing how the public is reacting to it. The Women’s March — I’ve never seen such a demonstration… There is reason to hope that we will see a better day.”

It has rarely been easy for women to hope.

In 1992, the right to bodily autonomy barely emerged intact from Planned Parenthood vs. Casey in the Supreme Court. Only in 1993 did three women senators — Sens. Carol Moseley-Braun, Barbara Mikulski, and Nancy Kassebaum — become the first women to wear pants instead of dresses or skirts on the Senate floor. By the time I was born that year, women were just starting to near men in workforce participation rates.

In many ways, it feels like we have progressed little from that world.

But Ginsburg, of course, was right.

The 2017 Women’s March was “likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history,” according to the Washington Post. It was followed by an historic midterm in 2018 that saw record numbers of women running for office and winning seats. There was hope after all.

Today, that hope falters again. It is tempting now to give in to cynicism once more, to react to RBG’s passing as though Sen. Mitch McConnell has already plunked a freshly harvested Brett Kavanaugh 2.0 on the bench. But to give in would be a blight on the memory of our Notorious RBG.

RBG never gave in. She dedicated her career to women and other marginalized Americans, and we owe her the same faith she had in us. When she says there is reason to hope, even when things look bleak, we’d best believe her.

In her final days, NPR reports, Justice Ginsburg left one last pithy dissent for America: “My most fervent wish,” she said, “is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Perhaps we can help grant her that wish.

We could call or write Maine Sen. Susan Collins and remind her of her promise to protect a woman’s right to choose. We could appeal to the better angels of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the only other publicly pro-choice Republicans in the Senate.

We could hold each other accountable on Election Day and continue the trend of rising millennial turnout at the polls, which doubled between 2014 and 2018.

And, if nothing else, we can continue the great American tradition of civil disobedience, root ourselves in our belief in equality and good, and declare with all the courage and conviction that Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself possessed:

Sophia Paslaski is an administrative assistant and event coordinator at the Institute for Policy Studies. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Democrats Raise Over $160 Million Since Justice Ginsburg’s Death | The Last Word | MSNBC

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Trump Knew COVID-19 Could Kill. He Just Didn’t Care https://www.juancole.com/2020/09/trump-covid-could.html Sat, 19 Sep 2020 04:01:22 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193339 By Mitchell Zimmerman | –

Trump and his falsehoods are responsible for most of America’s 200,000 coronavirus deaths to date.

(Otherwords.org) – “Captain,” said the first mate, “we just crashed into an iceberg — the hull’s been breached!”

“An iceberg. Deadly stuff,” said the captain. “Still, let’s play it down.”

“What are your orders? We must warn the passengers.”

“I’ll make an announcement… Attention all passengers, this is your captain speaking. We’ve encountered some ice, but we have it very well under control. We’re doing a great job. No need for you to change your routines. Over and out.”

“Should we ready the lifeboats?” asked the mate.

“Nah. Let’s just show confidence. I don’t want to create a panic.”

The deceiving and self-flattering captain of the scenario, leading his passengers into disaster, seems fictitious. But he’s all too real: except for the references to ice, everything the captain says above are things President Trump has actually said about coronavirus.

Tragically, that’s America in the age of pandemic. Over 6.5 million cases of coronavirus. Around a thousand deaths per day. An economy in ruins.

But Captain Trump is still at the helm — and Americans are still needlessly dying — because he still prefers “playing it down” to uniting us behind the tough but necessary measures that are called for.

For months, Trump urged resistance to the precautions epidemiologists recommended, crusaded against the lockdown, and minimized the lethal threat, even claiming the coronavirus was “totally harmless” in 99 percent of cases.

He knew this was false: “This is deadly stuff,” he privately told journalist Bob Woodward in February.

Even as Trump publicly ridiculed the use of masks and encouraged followers to defy social distancing, he knew the virus was spread through the air. “It goes through air,” he told Woodward. “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed.”

Trump claimed publicly that coronavirus was “like the regular flu,” but he told Woodward that he knew otherwise. It’s “more deadly than even your strenuous flu,” Trump told the journalist — more than five times as deadly.

Trump and his falsehoods are responsible for most of America’s 200,000 coronavirus deaths to date. How could it be otherwise? How could anyone think thwarting the epidemic response prescribed by doctors, scientists, and public health leaders would not have deadly consequences?

Turn back to January.

A dozen presidential briefings warned Trump of the coming pandemic. The Health and Human Services secretary twice told Trump the contagion was looming. Trump’s trade advisor wrote a memo in January warning of a “full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”

Trump claims he refused to act because he feared panic.

Avoiding panic is all very well. But if you’re telling passengers they don’t need to get in the lifeboats, you’re responsible when they start drowning. In reality, Trump cared more about not “panicking [the stock] market” — which he saw as key to his re-election — than about the lives that would be lost.

By late February a White House task force recommended aggressive steps, including stay-at-home orders. But when a Centers for Disease Control leader warned the public that a pandemic was imminent and “disruption to everyday life might be severe,” Trump threatened to fire her.

“The risk to the American people remains very low,” Trump proclaimed instead.

It was mid-March before Trump yielded to reality.

The cost of Trump’s delay? Columbia University epidemiologists concluded in May that had the lockdowns begun just two weeks earlier, “the vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided.”

But they weren’t. And the 1 million people who were needlessly infected, thanks to Trump’s indifference, then went on to infect others, and those in turn still others. Meanwhile the president kept up his campaign against the steps needed to bring the pandemic under control.

No precise reckoning is possible, but there’s no doubt a majority of our cases and deaths might have been avoided but for Trump’s lies, neglect, and sabotage.

Mitchell Zimmerman is an attorney, longtime social activist, and author of the anti-racism thriller Mississippi Reckoning. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Trump Admin Scrapped Plans To Send Every American A Mask In April | NBC News NOW

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Trump’s Postmaster General Should Be Returned to Sender before Democracy Dies https://www.juancole.com/2020/08/postmaster-returned-democracy.html Sun, 30 Aug 2020 04:01:08 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=192874

I’ve been a postal driver for over 20 years. I’ve never seen an attack on the service like this one.

By James E. Varner| –

( Otherwords.org) – President Trump’s postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, recently testified before Congress about major slowdowns in mail delivery under his watch.

As a 20-year postal veteran, I had only one reaction: DeJoy needs to be Returned to Sender.

DeJoy, a Trump fundraiser who owns millions worth of stock in Postal Service competitors, has been on the job barely two months. But already, his changes have caused serious delays in delivery.

Ostensibly, these moves are cost-saving measures. But it doesn’t take a partisan cynic to understand how this kind of disruption could affect voting in November’s election. The president himself has said he hopes as much.

Postal employees pride ourselves on a culture of never delaying the mail. Our unofficial mantra can best be summed up as, “Mail that comes in today, goes out today — no matter what.”

We are now being told to ignore that. If mail can’t get delivered or processed without overtime, it is supposed to sit and wait. That can mean big delays.

For example, letter carriers normally split up the route of a colleague who’s on vacation or out sick. These carriers each take a portion of the absent employee’s route after completing their own, often using a little bit of overtime. Now, that mail doesn’t get delivered until much later.

Then there’s the mail that arrives late in the day. Before, late arriving mail would often be processed for the next day’s delivery, even if that required the use of overtime. Today, that mail sits in the plant at least until the following evening. Mail arriving late on a Saturday or a holiday weekend could be delayed even longer.

In the plants, meanwhile, the short staffing of clerks means it takes longer to get all the mail through the sorting machines. To make matters worse, under orders from DeJoy, mail processing equipment is also being scrapped.

Even though the processing takes longer, drivers aren’t allowed to wait on it. Postal truck drivers are being disciplined for missing their departure time even by a few minutes — even if they haven’t gotten all the mail they’re supposed to haul. In some cases, the trucks that leave are completely empty!

With package deliveries up by 50 percent during the pandemic, as the Institute for Policy Studies reports, large mail trucks operating between facilities are often already full. Imagine how much mail will get left behind when that’s combined with seasonal holiday mail, or a large number of absentee ballots.

Finally, DeJoy’s proposals to cut hours of operation at many smaller post offices — and the removal of many public mailboxes — will make it harder for the public to access postal services.

When you limit hours to 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and close on Saturdays, you eliminate access for anybody working the day shift. Throw in mandatory closure for lunch breaks in the middle of the day, and it makes matters that much worse for our customers.

Postal workers have been doing their best to keep the nation’s mail and packages moving in these difficult and hazardous times. We don’t deserve these attacks.

DeJoy now says he’ll delay more changes until after the election, but he also had the nerve to tell Congress he wouldn’t replace the 600 sorting machines he’d already removed.

Delaying more changes isn’t enough. Instead, Congress must approve crisis relief for USPS — and reverse DeJoy’s disastrous service cuts altogether.

James E. Varner is the Director of Motor Vehicle Service at American Postal Workers Union Local 443 in Youngstown, Ohio. This op-ed was adapted from a letter published in the Warren Tribune-Chronicle and distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Democracy Now! “”The Damage Has Been Done”: Historian Says Trump’s Postmaster Has Undermined Faith in 2020 Election”

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The Fox is Still in the Henhouse at the Post Office https://www.juancole.com/2020/08/still-henhouse-office.html Sat, 22 Aug 2020 04:01:33 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=192713

In the face of a historic public outcry, the postmaster general has promised to stop sabotaging essential services — temporarily.

By Sarah Anderson | –

( Otherwords.org) – Skyleigh Heinen, a U.S. Army veteran who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and anxiety, relies on the Postal Service for timely delivery of her meds to be able to function. She was one of thousands of Americans from all walks of life who spoke out recently to demand an end to a forced slowdown in mail delivery.

The level of public outcry in defense of the public Postal Service is historic — and it’s having an impact.

Shortly after Postmaster General Louis DeJoy took the helm in June, it became clear that the fox had entered the henhouse. President Trump had gained a powerful ally in his efforts to decimate the public Postal Service.

Instead of supporting his frontline workforce, DeJoy has made it harder for them to do their job.

For example, he banned overtime, ordering employees to leave mail and packages behind if they could not deliver it during their regular schedule. Until this point, postal workers had been putting in extra hours to fill in for sick colleagues and handle a dramatic increase in package shipments.

As the mail delays worsened, more than 600 high-volume mail sorting machines disappeared from postal facilities. Blue collection boxes vanished from neighborhoods across the country. Postal managers faced a hiring freeze.

President Trump threw gas on the fire by gloating that without the emergency relief he opposes, USPS couldn’t handle the crisis-level demand for mail-in voting.

Outraged protestors converged outside DeJoy’s ornate Washington, D.C. condo building and North Carolina mansion, and they flooded congressional phone lines and social media. Political candidates held pop-up press conferences outside post offices.

At least 21 states filed lawsuits to block DeJoy’s actions, while Taylor Swift charged that Trump has “chosen to blatantly cheat and put millions of Americans’ lives at risk in an effort to hold on to power.”

After all this, DeJoy announced he’s suspending his “initiatives” until after the election.

This is a victory. But it’s not enough.

DeJoy’s temporary move does not address concerns about the threats to the essential, affordable delivery services that USPS provides to every U.S. home and business, or the decent postal jobs that support families in every U.S. community. These needs will continue long past November 3.

Second, DeJoy has made no commitment to undo the damage he’s already done. And he promised only to restore overtime “as needed.” Will he replace all the missing mail-sorting machines and blue boxes? Will he expand staff capacity to handle the backlog he’s created and restore delivery standards?

Third, DeJoy makes no mention of the need for pandemic-related financial relief. USPS has not received one dime of the type of emergency cash assistance that Congress has awarded the airlines, Amtrak, and thousands of other private corporations.

While the pandemic has been a temporary boon to USPS package business, the recession has caused a serious drop in first-class mail, their most profitable product. Postal economic forecasters predict that COVID-related losses could amount to $50 billion over the next decade.

DeJoy has proved he cannot be trusted to do the right thing on his own. Congress must step in and approve at least $25 billion in postal relief — and legally block actions that undercut the ability of the Postal Service to serve all Americans, both today and beyond the election.

For the American people, this is not a partisan fight. We will all be stronger if we can continue to rely on our public Postal Service for essential services, family-supporting jobs, and a fair and safe election.

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. More research on the Postal Service can be found on IPS site Inequality.org. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder: “Trump Realizes He TOTALLY Screwed Up On Attempt to Dismantle Post Office”

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How to Fund the Green New Deal: With the money we spend on Immigration Enforcement, we could solar power nearly 35 million homes. https://www.juancole.com/2020/07/immigration-enforcement-million.html Sun, 26 Jul 2020 04:02:52 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=192221 By Josue De Luna Navarro |

( Otherwords.org ) – The climate crisis is perhaps the greatest challenge humanity is facing. Yes, it threatens everyone’s existence. But in particular, it exacerbates the centuries-long systemic oppression plaguing so many communities.

The scientific consensus tells us we have 10 years to transform our fossil-fueled, extractive economy into a regenerative one. This isn’t so much a technological challenge as a political one. We need a bold political transformation — and a much bigger imagination.

When most people hear about the climate crisis, things like energy sources and weather patterns may come to mind. However, there is one intersectionality many may not imagine: migration.

According to the 2016 Global Report on International Displacement, 21.5 million people were forcibly displaced by climate destruction between just 2008 and 2015. Other studies predict 10 times that many could be displaced in the coming decades.

In the United States, that’s already meant a steady stream of refugees arriving from drought-ravaged regions of Central America. Unfortunately, that’s only led to calls to increase the militarization of the border as the planet warms, which only makes the problem worse.

The border wall itself has brought widespread ecological destruction to border communities. According to Vox, wall construction has exacerbated flooding in the region, destroyed wildlife habitats, split indigenous communities in half, and destroyed sacred grave sites.

Without a political transformation, we can expect to see increased U.S. immigration enforcement, more private detention centers, and more militarization of the borders as the climate crisis worsens. This puts millions of human beings at risk.

Many organizations have been calling for the United States to allow a new category of “climate refugees” displaced by the climate crisis into the country. That would be a step in the right direction, but it’s not the transformative solution we should be aiming for.

Creating a new category of refugees will not dismantle the political structures that have criminalized and incarcerated immigrant communities. And it would not dismantle the Border Industrial Complex that has allowed rampant profiteering off the persecution of immigrant communities.

That’s why any vision for climate justice should also abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This wouldn’t just be more humane — it would also free up valuable resources.

Last year, taxpayers spent almost $24 billion on ICE and CBP. A great deal of that money ended up in the pockets of the private contractors those agencies pay to run detention centers and provide technology.

What if we spent that money on green energy instead?

According to the National Priorities Project trade-off tool, the $24 billion we currently spend persecuting immigrant communities through ICE and CBP could instead create over 291,000 clean energy jobs or provide nearly 35 million households with solar electricity.

Our imagination should not stop there.

Instead of ICE and CBP, we could create a new borderland climate task force — an agency that could repair the ecological damage the border wall has done both to the environment and to border communities. We can also envision agencies that provide assistance to immigrant communities instead of persecution.

The climate crisis knows no borders. So as we envision a future where we all have a right to live in a clean, healthy environment, we should challenge ourselves to imagine that future without borders, too.

A future in which we all have freedom to move, live, and thrive — regardless of which side of the Rio Grande you were born on.

Josue De Luna Navarro is the New Mexico Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Find him on twitter @Josue_DeLuna. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Our Changing Climate: “Why we need a Green New Deal right now.”

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Cut the Pentagon 10 Percent, Invest in Public Health https://www.juancole.com/2020/07/pentagon-percent-invest.html Sat, 18 Jul 2020 04:03:51 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=192094

Tanks and ships can’t save us from our greatest dangers, so let’s pay for the things that can.

By Lindsay Koshgarian

( Otherwords.org ) – It feels like the world is falling apart.

But with a pandemic raging and an eviction crisis looming, the Senate is preparing to spend three quarters of a trillion dollars… not on public health or housing, but on the Pentagon.

The United States may be going down, but we’re going down well-armed.

At a time when health workers have struggled to find masks and protective gear, the Pentagon has so many extra trucks, guns, and other gear, it hands the surplus out for free to police departments — who then use it whether they need it or not, much like the Pentagon itself.

The Pentagon is like a giant black hole, devouring hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Even the Pentagon doesn’t know where the money goes. Meanwhile, everything else — from public health and medical research to education, housing, and infrastructure — has been severely and chronically underfunded.

At more than $740 billion this year, the Pentagon budget is more than 100 times the budget of the CDC — and more than 1,800 times the U.S. contribution to the World Health Organization that the president has promised to cut.

Despite the Pentagon’s favorite child status in Washington, most Americans agree that making reasonable cuts to the Pentagon to fund domestic needs is a good idea, according to a poll released just before the coronavirus shook the world. Since then, our needs have only grown more dire.

That’s why now is such an urgent time to finally break the gravity of the Pentagon’s black hole.

Senators Bernie Sanders, Representative Barbara Lee, and Representative Mark Pocan have put forward an eminently reasonable proposal to cut 10 percent from the Pentagon budget to fund other urgent needs — like education, housing, and infrastructure — in the country’s most destitute places.

Ten percent of the Pentagon budget is about $74 billion, and any member of Congress who claims they can’t find $74 billion to cut isn’t looking. That’s what the Pentagon spent last year on just two contractors — Lockheed Martin and Boeing — and what the Pentagon still spends annually on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which should have ended long ago.

That money could make a huge difference elsewhere.

It could fund 900,000 new teaching positions to reduce class sizes, create jobs, and make school — real school, not Zoom school — during the coronavirus much safer. It could house every family and individual who experienced homelessness in 2019, with many billions to spare for the families likely to soon join their ranks without government help.

It could create more than a million jobs building infrastructure in cities like Flint, Michigan, where unemployment is high and the water has been poisoned and undrinkable for years.

Tanks and ships can’t save us from our greatest dangers, so let’s pay for the things that can.

While I and others have proposed much larger cuts, the beauty of the 10 percent cut is they should be completely uncontroversial to anyone who’s against corporate handouts and endless wars.

Otherwords.org

Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

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Liberty Endangered: This July 4, let’s lay claim to the freedom we’ve celebrated, but seldom practiced https://www.juancole.com/2020/06/endangered-celebrated-practiced.html Tue, 30 Jun 2020 04:02:12 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=191798 By Robert P. Alvarez |

( Otherwords.org ) – When I was a child, I learned to believe that Americans valued freedom and equality more than any other place on the planet. I learned that, in our criminal justice system, we were innocent until proven guilty.

It’s hard to still believe that now.

Call me a cynic, but as Independence Day approaches, I can’t help but think about how unfree America truly is, particularly for people of color.

Police are choking us to death on camera like George Floyd, and shooting us to death in our sleep like Breonna Taylor. And when we’re not being killed by police, we’re locked in cages guarded by correctional officers.

One out of five incarcerated people in the world is locked up here in the land of the free.

That’s more than 2.3 million people — greater than the population of 16 U.S. states. And the $190 billion we spend each year on mass incarceration is higher than the GDP of 22 states.

This obsession with criminalization is driven by structural racism.

Around 60 percent of America’s incarcerated people are Black or Latinx, despite those two groups making up just 30 percent of the country’s population. Black and Latinx folks consistently receive longer, harsher penalties for the same crimes white folks commit.

So much for equality. But “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t hold up so well, either.

Roughly two-thirds of the 740,000 people in local jails right now are locked up in pretrial detention. That means they haven’t been convicted of the crime they were arrested for. And again, a disproportionate number of them are Black and Latinx.

Being held pretrial wasn’t always so common. But over the last 15 years, 99 percent of the total growth in jails has come in the detention of people who haven’t been tried, but can’t afford bail.

Karen Dolan, director of the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of the report The Poor Get Prison, wrote, “If you are poor in America, you are criminalized at every turn.”

Even when Black and Latinx folks are busy not committing crimes — just walking the streets of our cities — we still manage to be on the receiving end of a disproportionate share of police brutality and killings.

Getting tossed in the slammer, having police stop and frisk you, or being shot and killed because you’re poor or officers are racist doesn’t sound like we’re living in the “land of the free.”

But the good news is we’re in the middle of a cognitive shift.

Millions of people have had it with being criminalized because they’re poor or have melanin in their skin. And millions of white people, including many in so-called Trump country, are now standing up to say that has to end, too.

Many are calling to demilitarize or defund the police as a step toward eventually abolishing them. Others want to remove police officers from schools, where they funnel kids into the system at an early age. And the movement to end cash bail, which makes pretrial detention a condition of poverty, not justice, is also picking up steam.

This year, let’s celebrate Independence Day by reorienting our institutions away from mass incarceration and radically re-imagining our criminal justice system. Maybe then we can lay claim to the freedom and equality we’ve celebrated for centuries, but seldom practiced.

Robert P. Alvarez is a media relations associate at the Institute for Policy Studies. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

Via Otherwords.org

Featured photo: Shutterstock.

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