American friends, in particular those choosing a Democratic candidate for President, something’s been bugging me about the debates I’ve been watching. It’s the rhetoric attacking Medicare for All.
In particular, it’s the concept that if you don’t make government-funded healthcare just one option among many private options, you will be unfairly taking something away from people. While the impetus for politicians to make such arguments clearly lies in the fear of losing donor money, those who believe their logic most likely do so out of a real fear of losing something they actually need or like.
I suspect it’s due to a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding of how Medicare for All works. With that in mind, I’d like to explain, or Canadian-splain if you will, how Universal Healthcare works here in Canada.
It’s in the Cards
All Canadians are entitled to a Medicare Card. They are issued by the government of the province you live in.
These cards need to be renewed at a minimal cost. The specifics vary from province to province, but they’re all in the same range.
In Quebec, where I live, renewal is every four to eight years and costs $25. If you move to a different province, you have to prove residency to get a new card.
Having lost my card once at the same time I moved, I know all too well that you really have to prove who you are and where you live. Given that your health card also serves as a photo ID for things like voting, it’s good to know that this is a secure system.
It’s Really Quite Simple
With the card, you can walk into any hospital you want and get the treatment you need. There’s no such thing as “out of network” or a “deductible” here.
When it comes to family doctors, you choose the one you want. They still have to accept you as a patient, but your bank balance won’t be a factor.
When you arrive at the hospital or the doctor’s office, they swipe your card, treat you and send the bill to the appropriate provincial government. The provinces administer and directly pay for the healthcare system with the help of transfer payments from the Federal Government, as universal coverage is mandated by the Canada Health Act.
It’s important to note that the cost of procedures the government pays for is standardized here. Given the fact that hospitals in the US can currently charge whatever they want, I get why the prospect of universal coverage may erroneously seem too pricey to many.
What’s Covered and What’s Not
In Canada, Medicare covers everything from AIDS and Cancer treatment and gunshot wounds to non life-threatening stuff like sprained ankles. While medicine you get when in a hospital is covered, prescription drugs you take after aren’t (except for in some cases like people on welfare), but they are considerably less expensive than in the US.
We also don’t cover dental care or surgery considered cosmetic. It’s interesting to note that the Medicare for All plan Bernie Sanders is proposing does cover dental as well as home healthcare and, from the looks of it, a better plan than Canada currently has.
In our recent election, one party, the NDP, was pushing for Universal Dentalcare and prescription drug coverage, but they lost to (everyone outside of Canada’s favourite Liberal) Justin Trudeau. While he’s not for expanding the Canada Health Act, he wouldn’t dare suggest scrapping it, and neither would our most right-wing politicians.
Currently, for stuff like dental, we still have private and workplace insurance. I seriously doubt that if our government started funding dental or pharmacare, people would fear losing their private insurance.
A Different Mindset
That’s because you don’t have to give up any treatment with Medicare for All. If your system turns out anything like ours, the only thing people will lose is the cost.
If people “like their insurance” what they really like is the healthcare they get. And they’ll still get the same healthcare.
Yes, treatment will be prioritized for those who need it most and then for those who arrived first. It’s possible a millionaire will have to wait in line behind a minimum wage worker and someone on welfare if all three require the same care at the same urgency, but that’s how it should be.
When you stop seeing healthcare as a commodity and instead see it as an essential public service, like the fire department or the roads, you’ll realize that you aren’t giving up anything with Medicare for All.
Today on the reality show that is the United States LIVE! Everyone’s favorite talk show mogul Oprah Winfrey is rumored to be in the presidential running for 2020. She denied wanting to run for office in the past, and Trump says he would beat her, but I think she should try!
Fuck racism and sexism, this women has a following like no other. If celebrity is what wins a presidency she has what it takes.
I am an anarchist at heart but lets play with the idea of overthrowing capitalism by actually getting someone in power who cares? A black female president? YES, oh fuuuck yes! A car for everyone! I couldn’t imagine what the squirmy Trumpets would do.
Maybe she would be the one to give homes not jails and food not bombs! Presidential book club? I don’t even think Trump CAN read! Let’s get some LGBTQ voices in there too. Ellen Degenaras should be her running mate or perhaps Rosie O’Donnell?
That would really piss off Trump. A lesbian and a black woman in office? YES! The world would be a better place. Meryl Streep has already endorsed Oprah, I was thrilled when she dressed up like Trump, definitely well done.
Michelle Obama or Dave Chapelle would be incredible running mates. Celebrity as power, politics as a popularity contest, I guess it’s a little better than just power for the sake of power, money hungry fools taking over the world and spilling blood without consequence.
Oh Oprah, let me count the ways I love thee. That Golden Globes speech was riveting, very much a presidential speech. You empower people of color and women everywhere to rise up.
The speech came up as the first song on my Spotify year in Feminism playlist. I felt like it could have been a women’s march feature. It was nice to see a celebrity use her voice for good.
People listen when famous people talk. With a single speech the world was crying. We need people to cry because they are inspired not because they are afraid of nuclear holocaust. Speak out for those little girls with little hope, let them know that they can rise above society’s bullshit expectations and glass ceilings.
Oprah is more than just giving out free cars and recommending books. She speaks out for causes that are important. I love the fact that she single handedly struck down the meat industry several times proclaiming she would never eat another burger! They even sued her, and LOST! Oprah also said once that she is waiting for all of the old racists to die, hoping it ends with that last generation of hate. Don’t we all girl. No more pussy grabbers. Just strong smart women! This gives me Hoprah.
My dad even supports Oprah 2020, could you imagine? He is a middle class white baby boomer, and he thinks that men have screwed it up for so long why not see what a woman can do? So many of his friends are blind Republicans but he speaks his own heart and I love him for that. I am also inspired to have my own voice regardless of what others believe.
It is so scary to think that all we need is to be popular to gain power, like real power, like change the world kind of shit. Soon it might be possible to go viral on YouTube and end up in the oval office.
I’m sure the world is laughing at the US, but they probably have been for years. Ronald Reagan was the first celebrity president, he blazed the way for this current crash and burn.
Sure there are things about career politicians that are important, checking accountability through their voting record, the ability to lead and be responsible. But so far it seems to be a long line of bullshit and broken promises. Forever corrupt.
We need someone who is prepared to make real change in this world or it is going to continue to crumble. Let’s stir things up with a powerful black woman. She may have risen to the top for different reasons than most presidents past, but I know that I would rather have her in charge than a lot of other fools.
Does she know how to save healthcare, protect and educate our youth, stop climate change, and end all of the racial distress in this world? Who knows, but she would definitely be a better “leader of the free world” than the cheeto faced hate monger we are stuck with now.
Everyone needs to care about this and VOTE. I want to burn it all down. Trump is the worst case scenario, he is born of the cesspool at the bottom of the internet with the jizz of a million trolls and some leftover data. He will attack all that is good until he is stopped.
I really hope we don’t have to wait the entire term, impeach and move on please.
Oprah 2020, let’s go girl, perhaps start now by buying Fox News? That be nice. K, thx.
* Featured image: Screengrab from Golden Globes/NBC
I am sobbing reading about Danica Roem’s victory in Virginia. She not only is the first Transgender woman to be elected into Virginia legislature, she beat a shitty republican asshole who REFUSED to use her proper pronouns and only spewed hate for half a century. This man was about to overthrow a law protecting trans students from using the bathroom of their choice and then he was beaten by a trans woman!
YES THERE IS HOPE! I am so proud of her. I agree that the government is flawed AF and needs to be overthrown with real direct change. This is it. We take over by winning. We get out and vote, we support those who are just and those who will represent US.
We are trans, we are queer, we are black, we are women, we are immigrants, we are disabled, and we are only strong if we are all together holding each other up. Danica has totally inspired a generation of kids who have never seen someone like them succeed. She gives them hope that it can change.
She is 33 years old, I am about to be 31, I have a lot of work to do. I can change the world too! We all have to. Right now!
It starts with home, it starts with letting people we love that it is not okay to hate! Families have been torn apart because people are refusing to accept racists and bigots into their homes. How can I serve a Trump supporter a vegan Thanksgiving feast?
My generation will not accept that bullshit. I recently ended a lifetime friendship over just this. Enjoy this song from the band The Specials. If you have a racist friend this is the time for the friendship to end!
Knowing that someone actually supports Trump is a deal breaker. His hate is so transparent that they have no excuse of ignorance.
Local elections are so important, the school board, the sheriff, the fucking mayor, why would people not want to have a voice? It has been 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the US.
The current run of old white men who are hate mongers is actually just a catalyst for the revolution. They are finally getting SO bad that people are getting up off the couch and taking to the streets.
It is November 9th, my mom’s birthday, and one year since Donald Trump was elected President. I can’t believe it’s been a year. Three more to go. Fuck! Will we make it? Nobody knows.
Facebook Memories showed me the photo I posted one year ago. It was the band of the Titanic playing as the ship sank. I felt hopeless.
Shortly after I felt extreme feminine rage and made my photo Xena Warrior Princess. Lucy Lawless is so hot and powerful. A true badass female, like Danica Roem, I would rather be her than a band playing as the water crushes those around them and the planks snap one by one. I know an icy death awaits but I am not going down without a fight, none of us are!
The race for Sheriff in my home county was a tough one. Many people I know got out to #FIREHOWARD and I really hope we succeeded. (Former( fingers crossed)) Sheriff Howard has been there for way too long, he is an open racist and Trump supporting scumbag.
He wore his uniform to a Spirit of America rally and was surrounded by confederate flag waving assholes. People keep dying in the holding center and we need someone to stop it.
Bernie Tolbert , a black man, ran against him in an election so close that we still have to wait for the absentee ballots to be counted. Tolbert was the head of the FBI in Buffalo as well as the former head of security for the NBA. I just know that he is a big step in the right direction.
We must empower those who have always been put down. Now is the time for people of color, transgender humans, queers, and all of the others who have been oppressed for so long to take office and change this bullshit from the inside out.
It’s a long and epic boss battle. This is a multiplayer game folks, don’t put down that controller just yet!
How do I deal with the everlasting crush of the world crumbling down around me? I stay in my bed hole and cuddle with someone cute and my three cats. Wake up, bong, vegan yums, then maybe dye my hair blue. Plan the next show, listen to music, write as much as you can, and paint like humans are going extinct and all that will be left is the art we leave behind.
Politics really stress me out. This is a privilege, I know that. I can turn off the TV and chose not to read the newspaper. I can drown out my first world problems with hair dye.
I do not live in a war torn place. I am not beaten or threatened because of my skin or religious beliefs. I am free. I have a place to be warm and a person to hold, I have purpose and I need to help others rise up.
I live in a world where I can run around in half drag and scream because I feel like it. I expose myself and make people laugh. In other parts of the world I would be dead. Women can’t play music or even show their faces without being beaten or killed. People of color, transgender humans, and others do not have the luxury that I do.
I use my body as a tool, my burlesque is a voice. I will never be quiet about my politics.
My best friend told me that she almost didn’t have time to vote, but knew she needed to use her voice. She went. I am proud of her!
She voted in a room full of people of color and women. I held the door for an old white man with a Make America Great Again sticker on his car. At lease my vote cancelled his out.
That’s all we can do, show kindness even to the enemy, know the power of our collective voice, and push back when oppression strikes its poisonous hateful tendrils at those we love. Rise up motherfuckers, the revolution has already begun.
Chelsea Manning, the American soldier jailed in 2010 for leaking information to Wikileaks, is finally free after serving seven years out of her 35 years sentence.
Barack Obama had announced the shortening of her sentence back in January after years of campaigning by multiple civil rights defense groups, including the ACLU and Amnesty International. This Wednesday, Manning’s legal team confirmed that she was safely released from the US military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“After another anxious four months of waiting, the day has finally arrived. I am looking forward to so much! Whatever is ahead of me, is far more important than the past. I’m figuring things out right now–which is exciting awkward, fun, and all new for me.” Manning said in a press release.
Manning leaked more than 700 000 documents to Wikileaks, revealing various instances of misconduct by the US in the Middle East. Among the most shocking leaks was an infamous video of two American soldiers bantering about perpetrating an airstrike that killed 12 people, including two Reuters journalists, as well as evidence that the US military summarily executed a number of Iraqis and deliberately concealed the true civilian death toll of its attacks.
At the time, Chelsea Manning was only 23. She had not yet come out as transgender and she was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad, under the name of Bradley Manning. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, the longest sentence ever given to an American whistleblower.
Manning was detained with the male prisoners in a military jail and denied hormone therapy and treatment for gender dysphoria. The impacts on her were devastating and she had to be put on suicide watch. Four months ago, Obama commuted this sentence to time served plus 120 days in one of his last significant decisions as president.
While advocates for transparency and for LGBTQ+ rights rejoiced, others fumed, calling her a traitor who put US lives at risk. Then President-Elect Donald Trump was quick to tweet his displeasure:
(For those wondering, he was referring to a column in which she argued that the Obama administration should stop compromising their progressive stances)
According to the Obama administration, the four months delay between the announcement of a commutation and its effect is meant to allow detainees to prepare for life outside. Manning’s entourage started the “Chelsea Manning Welcome Home fund” for the same reason. Within three months, the GoFundMe campaign raised more than $163 000 US.
Surprisingly, Manning is still a member of the US army “on active duty” until her criminal appeal is over. The Army Court of Criminal Appeals and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces both have to issue an official decision on her dishonourable discharge before it can take effect. Until then, she is on “involuntary excess leave” which means she is on unpaid leave, but subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Currently one of the hardest things to do as a writer is cover the explosion of nepotism, treason, espionage, bigotry, misogyny, greed, and comical idiocy that makes up the 45th presidency of the United States. Nothing so pointedly demonstrates this difficulty than Allan J. Lichtman’s book The Case for Impeachment.
Allan J. Lichtman is a legend.
A distinguished professor of history at American University in Washington DC, he has successfully predicted the outcome of eight US presidential elections. In November 2016 he predicted that the Orange Con-Man would win the election, and that he would be impeached. It is therefore no surprise that Lichtman and his publishers worked to get this book out before any such proceedings could take place.
After a couple of introductory chapters explaining impeachment rules, Lichtman, chapter by chapter, launches into a full scale indictment of the Orange Buffoon.
It’s a good book, but it’s incomplete. It’s incomplete because it could have used the notion of impeachment to make a broader point about the state of American politics, but didn’t, and it’s incomplete because that Entitled Orange Bully damns himself too quickly for most writers to follow.
The book is focused and because of that, it’s an easy read. In each chapter Lichtman talks about Cheeto-Head’s conduct before and after taking office, ties it to a legal issue or an aspect of the President’s character, and then argues it as grounds for impeachment.
Before we get into the indictments in The Case for Impeachment, we need to talk about impeachment itself.
What is Impeachment?
Impeachment does not guarantee a removal from public office. It does not fire the president. What it does is act as a formal charge of misconduct that can be brought against the president, the vice-president, and all civil officers in the United States. The power to impeach is vested in the US Congress, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, though only the Senate has power to remove an official from public office following an impeachment.
The process works like this: any member of either house in Congress can draw up articles of impeachment aka charges against said public official. The House can approve or reject article(s) of impeachment, usually following an investigation, by a simple majority vote. If the House votes in favor of impeachment, the accused is impeached.
The case is then brought before the Senate which holds a sort of trial. Each side can present witnesses and the president is allowed to use his own lawyer if he wants. If the one facing impeachment is the president, the case is presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, currently Justice John Roberts, who has had clashes with the current president before.
Once the trial is heard, the case goes to the Senate, which acts as a sort of jury. It takes a two thirds majority in the Senate consisting of sixty-seven votes to remove an official. If convicted, the president would be removed from office and lose any privileges and immunities he had in office, and the vice-president would take over.
In the nineties, the House voted in favor of impeaching Bill Clinton, but because he was popular at the time, his opponents failed to get the sixty-seven votes needed to remove him, thus allowing Clinton to finish up his term.
Grounds for Impeachment
According to the US Constitution, the president can be removed from office “for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” According to Lichtman, this has historically been given broad interpretation allowing for impeachment due to conduct before or after taking office. Lichtman also contends that a conviction for any of the aforementioned acts is not pre-requisite, just the fact that the president did them. That said, there is also the Emoluments clause in the Constitution that says that:
“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
An emolument is a salary, fee, or profit, and the notion of emoluments is especially relevant given the mounting evidence that the Orange Administration and the Russians colluded with one another.
Lichtman’s indictments of Nacho-Face are numerous.
He talks about the president’s war on women, mentioning sexual harassment charges and disgusting entitled behavior. Unfortunately, his chapter on the subject does not go far enough. He refrains from mentioning accusations that the president sexually assaulted a thirteen-year-old girl while at a party of now convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the president who prided himself on procuring underage girls for rich men. It does not address the Orange Bully’s remark that women who get abortions should be punished.
Lichtman also talks about the president’s disgraceful business practices, pointing out that for a man claiming to be for getting jobs for working Americans, his track record suggests a preference for employing illegal immigrants because they’re more easily exploitable. He mentions the man’s denial of climate change, but perhaps unwisely implies that the Syrian refugee crisis was largely due to it, when we can all agree that drought does not make evil leaders do what Assad has done.
In an extensive chapter devoted to Russia, the author describes how deeply entangled the president’s businesses are with forces in Eastern Europe. He also devotes chapters to the Orange administration gross disregard for the Constitution, the law, and basic human decency.
One of the best things about this book is that it is fundamentally an American work. There are little to no comparisons with other countries or leaders and refrains from references to international history.
This perhaps is a mistake.
The Orange Administration is doing what stereotypical Republicans have dreamed of: an America where the poor look to people of colour and immigrants as the source of their misfortunes, allowing the upper one percent to hold onto their wealth by cutting their own taxes, effectively destroying American healthcare, education, employment, and infrastructure.
History has taught us that people eventually catch on to who is really hurting them, and as the French Revolution teaches us, a reluctance of the wealthy to help the poor leads to catastrophic civil unrest. If the White House isn’t careful, they may one day be faced with an angry mob and a guillotine.
On Monday the Orange Administration released a new Executive Order. We all knew it was coming, for no sooner had courts struck down the original Muslim ban when the White House promised a new and improved version. It was supposed to be signed and released last week, but then something strange happened.
In his first joint-address to Congress, the Lint-Covered-Cheeto President surprised everyone by acting like a gentleman. There was no blustering, there was just a man-child giving a speech. Reporters hailed his behavior as being truly “presidential” and the White House opted not to ruin the wave of good faith by releasing the new ban immediately afterward.
No matter what the new travel ban says, it will never outshine the atrocities committed in the first ban’s name. It will never outshine the baby who was denied entry for life-saving surgery (a lawmaker intervened on the child’s behalf when the story leaked so she was saved in the end), or the child separated from his mother for hours, or the old lady who was denied a wheelchair under the enforcement of the first Executive Order. It will never undo the widespread outrage from ordinary citizens and the legal community.
Now it’s time to look at the new Executive Order.
This order replaces the previous one and provides something the first order was sorely lacking: clarifications.
The first Executive Order was so vague no one seemed to know how to enforce it. As a result, people in positions to abuse it did and people with valid documents to enter the US from permanent residents to workers to famous authors and ex diplomats with legit visas were denied or delayed.
The new Executive Order provides a list of people deemed exceptions to its travel restrictions. Among the exceptions are lawful permanent residents, foreign nationals with valid visas or other documents allowing them to legally enter the US, people with dual citizenship, and those on diplomatic visas. Also exempt are foreign business people and workers, foreign nationals granted asylum or refugee status, children needing urgent medical care, and people legally admitted to the US to stay with family.
The new Order also does something the other did not: it condemned Islamophobia.
Unfortunately, the new Order does it in the most petulant way possible by defending the previous Executive Order with a none-too-subtle “we didn’t mean it that way!” response to the displays of Islamaphobia that had ensued.
Section 1 of the new order says:
Executive Order 13769 did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion. While that order allowed for prioritization of refugee claims from members of persecuted religious minority groups, that priority applied to refugees from every nation, including those in which Islam is a minority religion, and it applied to minority sects within a religion. That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion, but was instead intended to protect the ability of religious minorities — whoever they are and wherever they reside — to avail themselves of the USRAP in light of their particular challenges and circumstances.
This petulant tone is consistent throughout the beginning of the new Executive Order as section 1 is full of justifications and excuses for the first ban.
On the bright side, it also includes a subtle acknowledgment that the White House would never succeed in the courts had they continued to try and enforce the first Executive Order. The provision that replaces the first order with the current one says that it is “in order to avoid spending additional time pursuing litigation”.
People generally back out of legal disputes to due amicable resolutions, lack of funds, or the fact that they know they can’t win. The former two do not apply here.
Then there’s the list of countries banned.
One would hope that a new improved travel ban would include limitations on some of the countries that actually produce terrorists. Those states widely acknowledged as such include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, Turkey, and Kuwait. Sadly, none of these countries are on the list of limited countries as the new Order maintains limitations on Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia from the previous version.
However, this new Order tries to back up this list with facts cherry-picked in part from the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 (June 2016). The Order does not state where the rest of its justifications come from.
It maintains the discretion of the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to make exceptions to the ban and like the previous Order, gives them extra responsibilities. The Order requires them with the Director of National Intelligence to review and identify countries from which more information is needed about their people before they are admitted to the US. Once they make the list, they have to ask the countries for information and if they don’t get it in a certain amount of time, the country’s people won’t be admitted to the US.
The new Executive Order was an opportunity for the White House to redeem itself. They could have limited nationals from countries that actually produce a lot of terrorists. They didn’t. They could have used actual facts to back their rules and claims, but they didn’t.
The White House did however do one very important thing which to specify who the ban does not apply to, leaving less room for racists and xenophobes with rubber gloves and metal detectors to arbitrarily bar or detain people they don’t like. In that sense, this new order is new and improved.
Moms Demand Action New York State Chapter Leader Jaime Levy Pessin is a modern and efficacious woman living in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two children. As I enter her home for the interview I witness a person who makes multi-tasking seem as natural as waking up each morning.
As interview starts, some Moms Demand Action business is taken care of, a call answered, her daughter Cora and son Noah’s activities are settled and their dinner is prepared. This all happens over the course of maybe two minutes and Jaime is calm and polite as we get down to some questions.
S- For readers new to Moms Demand Action give us a brief history of the organization.
J- Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was founded the day after the horrific Sandy Hook shooting, which left six educators and 20 six and seven year-olds dead in their elementary school. A mom in Indiana, Shannon Watts, started a Facebook page with the idea that we needed to have a Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the gun violence prevention movement. And her page spread like wildfire.
New York City was one of the first chapters to form. Weeks later we held our first annual march across the Brooklyn Bridge. More than 1,000 people showed up in below-freezing temperatures to march with us.
Since then, we’ve grown to 3 million members in all 50 states. We’ve joined forces with Mayors Against Illegal Guns under the umbrella of Everytown for Gun Safety. We are a nonpartisan, grassroots group committed to passing reasonable, evidence-based laws that are proven to reduce gun violence.
Do you know Shannon Watts and in what ways is she still involved in Moms Demand Action today?
I first met Shannon at our first Brooklyn bridge march. She has since turned into a great figurehead of the movement. She is a volunteer and founder.
Shannon travels the country and meets the other volunteers. She does speaking engagements, does press and fundraisers. As she is traveling she makes a point of stopping by and seeing what all the other volunteers are doing. She has really gotten to know all the people across the country who are working as part of this thing that she created.
I think she is still a little bit baffled that she started this movement but Shannon is always very adamant in pointing out how much every person has played a part in it. She doesn’t view Moms as her creation, she sees it as if she did this one small action and then everyone else kinda filled it in throughout the country.
This is what is so cool about volunteering with Moms. There is a sense that every single person has something to contribute. Whether you have ten minutes or ten hours there is a place for you. She wants to make sure that message comes through.
Can you tell us what led you to your role as a leader in Moms Demand Action -New York?
In the days after the Sandy Hook shooting, I was devastated. I didn’t personally know anyone affected, but a six-year-old boy named Noah was killed. My son is named Noah and was four at the time. I was paralyzed by fear and grief. During that time, Shannon’s Facebook page somehow popped into my newsfeed, and I had a realization: If I am not part of the solution, then I’m part of the problem. And that’s when I started volunteering.
In the early days, we really were a motley crew of volunteers – “accidental activists” is what we called ourselves, because none of us had ever done anything like this before. My career had been as a journalist for traditional media, so I was never allowed to publicly express a political opinion – forget about planning a rally or meeting with elected officials!
I’ve been involved in the organization in a bunch of different roles since we got started. I currently run the New York state chapter, which is massive compared to how we began!
But another project that I helped start, which I think is truly special, is our Mother’s Dream Quilt Project. It’s a series of quilts that incorporates fabric from victims and survivors of gun violence. We hold quilting bees around the country that bring together victims, survivors and everyday Americans who believe we can do a better job of preventing gun violence.
With all the concerns about civil rights coming up around the Trump administration, why do you think gun violence is so important?
After the election, I did a lot of soul-searching around this question. In a way, this seems like such a small piece of the puzzle.
“I’m going to fight like hell to push back the kind of stand your ground laws that allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer to suffer no consequences.”
But then I realized: I’m worried about voter suppression; the idea of people with guns showing up at the polls to intimidate other citizens is chilling. I’m worried about immigration; what does it mean to have vigilantes with guns patrolling the border?
I’m worried about hate crimes against the LGBTQ community, and I’m worried about violence against women; we know that the presence of a gun in these situations makes them vastly more dangerous. And I’m worried about the unfair treatment of African-Americans in this country, so I’m going to fight like hell to push back the kind of stand your ground laws that allowed Trayvon Martin’s killer to suffer no consequences.
Can you tell us both about your personal experience and Moms Demand Action’s presence at the Women’s March in DC on January 21st?
I thought the Women’s March was so inspiring. I met a few fellow volunteers at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn at 4 a.m., and there was bus after bus after bus loading up for DC.
Moms Demand Action had nearly 1,000 members come in from around the country to join the march. Being in a crowd with so many passionate citizens gave me hope that this administration will not break our spirit.
I think the key takeaway, though, was that it’s not enough to march. It feels really good, and it’s important, but we have to take it home to our communities and get involved in our local politics.
We need more women running for office, whether for school board or Congress. We can’t just pay attention when it’s time to elect a president – we need to start developing a bench. So I hope – and I think that it’s happening – that the march has compelled people to start working seriously in our own neighborhoods.
What are some of the highlights of Moms Demand Action-New York’s current six month plan?
The new administration is in the pocket of the gun lobby; the NRA contributed more than $30 million to Donald Trump’s campaign – they were his single largest donor. So we are going to be working very hard to push back against the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda of guns everywhere for everyone.
“What’s crazy is that more than 90 percent of Americans – and that includes 87 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of gun owners – agree that we should have background checks on all gun sales.”
One of the major pieces of legislation we expect to be fighting is something called “concealed carry reciprocity.” The gun lobby would like for permits to carry concealed weapons to be treated like driver’s licenses, where one state’s permit would be recognized across all state lines.
Here’s the problem: The standards for getting a concealed carry permit vary wildly from state to state. In New York, you have to undergo a background check, submit character references and show a proven need to carry a concealed weapon in order to get that permit. In Arizona, there are no permitting requirements at all. New Hampshire also just rolled back their already weak permitting program.
With reciprocity, a New Yorker who couldn’t pass the rigorous standards here could travel to another state, get a concealed carry permit and legally carry a hidden weapon in Times Square or on the subway.
As a New Yorker, this is a direct threat to my safety. The idea that “guns everywhere” make people safer is patently untrue. New York State has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the country. We also have one of the lowest rates of gun ownership, and some of the strongest gun laws. There is a direct correlation: stronger gun laws keep us safe from gun violence. Concealed carry reciprocity would make our state a much more dangerous place to live.
Another priority for the New York chapter is going to be relationship-building with our elected officials at the statehouse. We’re planning our first-ever Lobby Day this spring, and we’re going to be meeting in-district with our representatives as well.
We believe that, much like the same-sex marriage movement, the gun violence prevention movement will win at the state level. We want to continue to develop relationships with our state representatives to make sure that they will keep New York at the forefront of sound gun policy.
Our overarching goal is to ensure background checks on all gun sales in the United States. Many people don’t realize that the law as it stands leaves gaping loopholes in the system, making it very easy for a felon or a domestic abuser to purchase a gun without a background check. And background checks are proven to work: suicides, cop killings and domestic violence-related deaths all go down in states that ensure background checks on all gun sales.
What’s crazy is that more than 90 percent of Americans – and that includes 87 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of gun owners – agree that we should have background checks on all gun sales. When you take the question of gun violence directly to the citizens, they will vote in favor of common-sense gun reform.
In 2016, despite the dismal election results nationally, we actually won three out of four ballot initiatives by asking residents of California, Nevada and Washington State to pass stronger gun laws. It was one of the few bright spots in the progressive agenda last year.
We have quickly become the strongest counterweight the gun lobby has ever seen. That’s why we’re committed to getting this message to our elected officials: The other side is scared of losing their guns. We’re scared of losing our children. Who do you think is going to win in the end?
What are some things the modern, busy adult can do to stand against gun violence?
What is great about Moms Demand Action is that we offer so many different entry points for people to get involved. You can spend five minutes a week signing petitions and calling your senators, or you can get more deeply involved and meet with your elected officials or plan events. We need all levels of commitment.
The first thing you should do is text JOIN to 644-33, or visit our website to officially sign up as a member. Soon you’ll hear from someone in your local chapter about ways to get involved. Like the national organization on Facebook (or the New York chapter) and follow us on Twitter (@momsdemand) to get national calls to action.
For students, recent grads and parents: Did you know the gun lobby is pushing to allow guns on college campuses and K-12 schools? We defeated 16 guns on campus bills throughout the country in 2016. But the gun lobby is going to keep trying, and we’re preparing to fight. Ask any educators you know to join our Educators for Gun Sense campaign by sharing the link.
For people who want to spend an hour or so a week volunteering for a good cause, consider joining the Gun Sense Action Network. We do a lot of phone banking to voters in states that are playing defense against horrible bills.
This makes a huge impact. Last year, for example, the Georgia statehouse passed a sweeping guns-in-schools bill. We were able to drive at least 30,000 calls to the governor’s office, and eventually he vetoed the bill – even though he’s typically an ally of the gun lobby. People who join our Gun Sense Action Network can make calls from home, on their own time!
(ED’s Note: While most joining options are for Americans living in the US, making calls is, of course, open to Americans living abroad and Canadians as well)
How many people in America die from a gun each day?
Moms treat gun violence like a public health epidemic, which it is. What disease kills 93 Americans a day? That’s too many people so we should treat it as such. Unfortunately, Congress has barred the CBC from actually studying gun violence. The US government doesn’t actually study this even though it is a public health problem.
One thing that many people don’t realize is how prevalent gun violence is in our country. About 30,000 people a year are killed by gun violence in the U.S. – 93 a day. Twice that number are injured every day. But I think it’s the ripple effect that really makes the point.
A study came out recently that said the probability of knowing a gun violence victim is 99.85 percent. Think of that: Nearly every single American will know a victim of gun violence in their lifetimes! That’s insane.
I’ve seen it play out personally. When I started volunteering for Moms Demand Action, I didn’t know anyone (as far as I knew) who had been a victim of gun violence. But since December 2012, I have had one friend on lockdown with her daughter at the Kansas City JCC while a shooter killed two people in the parking lot. My sister’s childhood friend was shot and killed in his car in Miami. One of my husband’s relatives lost her granddaughter when the granddaughter’s husband shot her in front of their two kids in California. A close friend of mine was at the Fort Lauderdale airport baggage claim with her three kids when a gunman opened fire.
It just gets closer and closer. That’s what keeps me up at night, and that’s what motivates me to keep going.
On January 27, 2017 the President of the United States signed an Executive Order, one of his first acts as leader of the free world. Its premise is to protect Americans from the alleged threat of terrorists pretending to be refugees in order to get into the United States.
There has been a lot of discussion about this Order. Some people are calling it a Muslim ban, while others are justifying it as a legitimate and reasonable approach to American security. What no one seems to be doing is actually reading the Order itself.
Whoever wrote the Executive Order deserves a medal for literature. It is subtle and eloquent in a way the man who signed it will never be.
Does it ban Muslims outright?
What the Executive Order does is suspend immigrant and non-immigrant entry into the United States from certain countries “of Particular Concern”.
Refugees from Syria are denied entry until the president says otherwise. People from countries designated by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security as having repeatedly provided support for international terrorism are also banned, but for a period of ninety days.
This list (so far) includes Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Saudi Arabia, which is known for encouraging the extremist Islamic beliefs adopted by terrorists, is suspiciously absent from this list. Whether this is due to the President’s business dealings with the Kingdom or vested American interest in maintaining relations with them is unclear.
The Order also changes the criteria for refugee claims, prioritizing those “made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality”.
As most of the refugees are from Muslim-majority countries, most of those seeking safety in the United States are Muslim.
Though the Order says that “the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation”, it does not offer any protection to people fleeing persecution due to gender, sexual orientation, or race. Being a member of a religious minority seems to be the only exception to the ban.
The Order speaks of these new rules as necessary in part to “reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies”. However, it calls for a flurry of security reports to be provided by the Secretary of State, Director of Homeland Security, and the Directors of the FBI and of National Intelligence and says that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security can admit individual refugees on a case-by-case basis. All this sounds like MORE of a burden, not less.
Is this Executive Order legal?
Not according to the former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. A holdover from the Obama administration, she was asked by the new administration to stay on until the president’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is confirmed by the Senate.
Last night, Yates told the US Department of Justice not to defend the Executive Order in the courts. In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, she said:
“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right…At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”
She is not the first to acknowledge the Order as potentially illegal.
On January 28, 2017, a Federal Court in New York presided by Judge Ann Donnelly granted an Emergency Motion of Stay Removal to Hamid Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi who’d risked his life acting as interpreter to the US army during the Iraq war, and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, another Iraqi who was en route to reunite with his wife and child in the US. Both were detained at the airport under the Executive Order and with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, fought back.
In her decision, Judge Donnelly said
“The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioner and others similarly situated violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
Many other federal courts have followed suit, granting stays blocking the Executive Order from being enforced.
When you read the US Constitution, something the president has clearly never done, it is easy to understand why the motions were granted.
Article I, Section 9 prohibits laws that single out any particular group for punishment without trial. The Fifth Amendment goes even further, stating that no person should be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”.
As far back as the Second World War, American courts have recognized the danger of Executive Orders like these. In 1944 in Korematsu v. The United States, the Supreme Court said that
“All legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect… courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.”
The President has rambled on about the danger of foreign terrorists masquerading as refugees, but neither he nor his administration have presented any numbers to back this up. Instead, he fired Sally Yates for refusing to enforce an Executive Order that is legally unenforceable, leaving his administration without anyone with the legal authority to sign warrants authorizing the surveillance of the foreigners he fears so much.
The reaction of protesters, public officials and the American courts are reasons to hope for all who hate xenophobia, for as comedian Aziz Ansari recently pointed out:
“Change doesn’t come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people.”
If the protests and lawsuits are any indication, change is coming.
In the week since t-bag took over a lot has already changed. The pipeline will chug on, a wall will be constructed, funding for the arts is gone, legal safe abortion is threatened, media block on the EPA to hide climate change, it’s acceptable and legal to discriminate against gays, people in important positions are jumping ship and everyone that trump puts in is more evil than the last.
He is plotting evil as you read this. More and more rights are going to be stripped from us. We must stand up to this. Scientists put the clock one minute closer to impending doom.
Washington DC had a very dystopian feel, it was so foggy that you could not see the penis tip of the Washington Monument. Inauguration Day meant broken glass on the streets of DC. Starbucks, bank, and McDonalds windows smashed like the patriarchy itself. A limo burned.
Protesters were greeted with a wallowing pink smoke, tear gas, mace burned, and ears rang from flash cannons. It was a strange feeling.
Impending doom and the need for empowerment. We all must organize and resist.
The time is right now to make a difference and show the world that this asshole does not represent the silent majority. Riot gear is more than a pink knitted pussy cat hat.
I hope the women in pink hats taking selfies saw this and were changed. Step one is getting off of the internet and out into the streets. Then real change must happen.
People of privilege need to get called out and then call out others like them. I am an a white woman and I carried a vagina sign, I am now ashamed of that, not because I have a vagina, but because not ALL women have them.
I was not marching for white vaginas, I was marching for ALL women. Intersectional feminism requires us to stand up in solidarity for all. When we are inclusive but still blind it actually adds to the problem. Showing up but not listening. Trans women, Non binary humans, Black women, Muslim women, Immigrant women, Disabled women, Single Mothers, Mother Earth, Rape Victims, Sex Workers, and everyone who needs love all deserve to feel safe. All of these humans need to be protected from the evil afoot.
I was upset with all of the Angela Davis quote signs out there and these girls didn’t even know that she was speaking right over to the left of them. She was just a sign that was on the internet.
Too busy taking selfies to actually hear the words written on your sign, too busy celebrating yourself to give a hand to those who need lifting up, and too white washed to see the problem.
It is a privilege to even go to Washington DC and march. Many women cannot just take off of work and go. I was sad that I didn’t get there a day earlier for the big gay rave in front of Daddy Pence’s house.
I will be there in June when the gays march. Rainbows will take over! Can’t stop, won’t stop.
I was disgusted to hear that a group of women that are water protectors on the front line of the Dakota Access Pipeline were treated like pieces of selfie meat. People took photos of them but did not listen about their struggle or even take a pamphlet.
The struggle is real, it is not a hashtag. People are being brutalized and mother earth is being raped for money and power. DO NOT OBJECTIFY THEM for Facebook likes!
The first woman I met was 62, from California. She said to my friends and I that she was here for us and our future. She had been fighting her entire life and would die trying to make this world better.
She inspired me, in her 60s she started climbing mountains because why not? She was sick of society telling her not to do things and told us to always do what we dream and take action.
Life goes by fast, we only have a short time to make things better for the next generation. She was brave and beautiful.
On the flip side an older woman came up to me and told me I was a distraction and that I should be ashamed of myself because I was topless. I told her I respected her as a woman but did not agree.
I am empowered and I wish to inspire others to be the same. There needed to be more breasts out at the woman’s march. This should be a safe place to feel confident about yourself and not hide behind what society wants from you.
Well behaved women seldom make history is a sign I saw and something I agree with wholeheartedly. I will not put my breasts away for you Missy.
The whole event kind of felt like Facebook in real life, censorship and all. I even saw straight up memes printed out on signs. You take the meme from the internet then but it on a sign and take a picture of it, just to post it back on the internet, like a TV within a TV. You cannot carry a sign without carrying the burden of hate.
Signs are all well and good but don’t really mean shit. You need direct actions behind those words.
I was also pretty turned off by the fact that people weren’t even paying attention to both sides of their signs. One protester carried a sign that said FEDEX on the back, both sides are advertising bro, always think of both sides of every sign or argument.
There were llamas there marching too, which is wrong! The poor creatures were scared. Do not abuse an animal for your agenda! This is a protest, think!
I was also turned off by the fact that there were a zillion pussy signs and no toilet paper to be had, so everyone is there with a dirty pussy. The revolution needs more toilet paper and access to tampons etc. I want to be a vag warrior and hand out tp and tampons to all women. Also I will include a zine about inclusion and loving and supporting our transgender sisters.
During the Women’s March two trump (he does not get the capitol T) supporters walked by. One of the men dropped a button with trump’s face on it, then continued walking on.
My friend pulled the button in with her foot and started to stomp it. Within a second it seemed that one of the men came back. He literally pushed my friend to the ground to get her off of the button. I instantly ran to her side and into his face. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You have the audacity to push down a woman at a fucking women’s march?
All of my aggression and screaming did not turn a single head, no woman came to help. The only person who did approach me was an older woman who just kept saying ‘love trumps hate’.
In retrospect I should have fucking nailed him. Getting arrested wearing nothing but rainbow and wielding a rubber fist would have made me a hero. I know that fighting hate with more hate is not the answer, but when he was walking away he said “Nice tits!” THEY ARE NOT FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT!
We need to call people like this out and stand up against violence and oppression. I think every woman needs to start carrying a rape whistle again, so people notice you when you are in trouble.
While the pink hats did get women out, they need to get more involved and know that getting out once is not enough. We all need to criticize our own activism.
Do not question why BLACK LIVES MATTER is being chanted at a women’s march! Do not destroy Mother Earth by littering your signs and hats on the ground. You should be saving those signs to use again for the next rally. Always keep fighting.
Yes we need to fight for our reproductive rights and equality for all in pay and opportunity, but don’t forget about climate change, the fact that water is life, and war is always looming over us too. Global issues affect all humans.
The Women’s March was a worldwide gathering of the goddesses! Women and feminist men took to the streets and spoke out against oppression and hate. It was truly monumental. It must become a movement, it must keep strong.
We must support all of the efforts of our community and work together to prevent a meltdown. I expect to see pink hats at the next Black Lives Matter event, or at the #NODAPL rally, or to fight against Muslim registries or Immigration blocks. This country and world needs all of us to be accountable and brave.
There was a girl on a light post with a megaphone leading chants and giving out info. Someone asked her if she was an organizer, she said “No, someone just gave me a microphone!” BE THAT GIRL! Take charge of the moment and be the change.
I felt like I could become President, that it needed to be one of us and NOT one of them! No more politicians! No more businessmen! We need to be informed, educated, and strong together.
My rubber fist said FILTHY AND PROUD, I will never be silenced. My voice will spark the revolution in harmony with the war cries of a million of my sisters. Daily direct action wins. Nobody can stop us.
When you look back on 2016, you may think of all the greats we lost like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and, most recently, Carrie Fisher and her mom Debbie Reynolds. You may also remember it as the year the UK decided to leave the EU or the year the US decided to leave its senses politically.
No matter how you saw it, though, you have to admit that quite a bit happened. With that in mind, we take a look back at 2016 in the News.
As this post had two authors, parenthetical initials indicate if the section was written by Jason C. McLean (JCM) or Mirna Djukic (MD).
2016 was the first year of the post-Harper era and it was an agitated one in federal politics.
Justin Trudeau’s popularity soared for a while, still largely carried by the expectations built during his campaign and his undisputable quality of not being Stephen Harper. To his credit, he did score some significant points in his first months in office by immediately opening the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and rebuilding relationships with our neighbours (which gave us both the most hilarious handshake attempt of all time and the TrudObama Bromance).
One of the first flies in the ointment was the infamous #elbowgate incident in the House of Commons. Last May, the Prime Minister took it upon himself to escort Conservative Whip Gordon Brown through a cluster of opposition MPs in order to move the procedures along and accidentally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest. This was perhaps a fairly embarrassing show of temper for the PM, but it degenerated into something out of a Shakespearian comedy in the following days, with Trudeau issuing apology after apology and the opposition throwing words like “molested” around.
Inopportune elbows aside, the Liberals took quite a few steps during the year that caused the public to question how different they really are from their predecessors. Not only did they go through with the $15 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia, but they also quietly changed the country’s policies about export controls to ensure that they could continue to trade arms with shady regimes with a lot less obstacles.
As for the Greens, they started the year as the underdogs who were doing unexpectedly well. The increased attention, though, revealed a world of messy internal struggles. These started when the party voted in favour of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Leader Elizabeth May disliked this so much that she considered resigning. (MD)
Indeed, discrepancies between the government’s discourse and their actions accumulated throughout the year. None was more flagrant than their attitude toward pipelines.
The Liberals campaigned on promises to restore the trust of Canadians in the Environmental Assessment Process, “modernize” the National Energy Board and make Canada a leader in the worldwide climate change fight. Trudeau was the first to admit that the current environmental assessment protocols were immensely flawed and he mandated a committee to review them.
While still waiting for their conclusions, though, he had no problem with major projects still being approved by that flawed process. He had no comments when it was revealed that the NEB board members in charge of reviewing Energy East had secretly met with TransCanada lobbyists nor when indigenous resistance against various projects started rising.
If he thought that the population was on his side, or that they would remain passive about it, he was sorely mistaken. In August, the NEB consultations about Energy East were shut down by protesters. Anger and mistrust towards the NEB only grew after that, with environmental groups calling for a complete overhaul.
None of this stopped the government from approving two contentious pipelines in late November. Both Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project and Enbridge’s Line 3 were officially accepted. Fortunately, they did reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, which was set to go through the Great Bear Rain Forest. (MD)
2016 was the year that saw the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe emerge victorious (for the moment) over big energy and the North Dakota Government.
In July, Energy Transfer Partners got approval for the $3.78 Billion Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the tribe’s only source of drinking water. The plan also saw DAPL cut across sacred burial grounds.
The Standing Rock Sioux challenged this both in court and with water protectors on the front lines. They invited others to stand in solidarity with them and assembled the largest gathering of Native American tribes in decades.
Things came to a head on Labour Day Weekend early September when DAPL sent private corporate security to attack the water protectors with pepper spray and dogs. Democracy Now’s shocking footage of the incident got picked up by major networks and there finally was major media attention, for a while.
As more people joined the camp and solidarity actions, including Facebook Check-Ins from around the world, increased, corporate media interest waned. Meanwhile the Governor of North Dakota Jack Dalrymple activated the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which brought law enforcement from ten different states to Standing Rock.
With most media focused on the elections, police used tear gas and water cannons on water protectors in freezing temperatures. The US Army Corps of Engineers sent an eviction notice demanding the camp be cleared by December 5th and roadblocks went up.
The Sioux Tribe’s infrastructure survived, however, and once 4000 veterans showed up in solidarity, the official stance changed. President Obama’s administration got the Army Corps to change its tune and deny the easement over Lake Oahe, meaning the DAPL will not go through Standing Rock, at least not until the Trump Administration takes office.
While their fight may not be over, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did flip the script in 2016 and was even named FTB’s Person of the Year. (JCM)
Indigenous Issues in Canada
Meanwhile in Canada, indigenous issues did make their way a bit more to the forefront in 2016. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women finally got underway September 1st.
While long overdue, the Inquiry will be independent of the Federal Government and has a budget of $53.86 million to be spent over two years. While overall optimistic, some in Canada’s First Nations communities are concerned that the scope of the inquiry is too broad, making it easy to not investigate police forces and specific cases.
Quebec is considering its own inquiry. It’s needed, especially when you consider that the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) treated accusations that its officers were assaulting native women in Val d’Or by going after Radio-Canada and its journalists for reporting on the story and no one else.
Meanwhile, conditions in many First Nations communities continued to deteriorate. An indigenous police force in Ontario even recommended its own disbanding for lack of proper funding. (JCM)
The provincial government keeps slowly but steadily dropping in the polls. According to a Léger-Le Devoir poll conducted in November, the Liberals hit their lowest approval rating since the 2012 crisis. With only 31% of the intended vote, they are now barely 1% ahead of the PQ.
The fact that they did reach a budgetary surplus as a result doesn’t seem to have calmed the popular discontent. The shadow of past corruption scandals also remains.
Couillard assured the public that none of the scandals happened under his watch and that his administration is fully committed to fighting corruption. This commitment was, however, brought into question by a recent report which accuses the government of lagging behind on the Charbonneau recommendations.
In any case, the party was left in turmoil. It wasn’t long before another of its prominent figures left. Bernard Drainville, champion of the infamous Charte des valeurs, but also a major architect of the party’s policies and democratic reforms, decided it was time to call it quits. In a slightly surreal move, he announced that he was retiring from politics to co-animate Éric Duhaime’s notoriously salacious radio show.
Those who had hoped that his departure would help the PQ move toward a better relationship with minorities and immigrants were disillusioned by the conclusion of the leadership race. Veteran Jean-François Lisée and his divisive views on immigration won by a landslide, while the favorite, Alexandre Cloutier was left in the dust with Martine Ouellet and Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon.
However, let’s not forget that Quebec’s political scene is not limited to the two major parties. In fact, a new player is preparing to enter it before the next election. FTB learned that a provincial NDP is in the works, hoping to provide the voters with a progressive option that doesn’t aim for Quebec’s independence. (MD)
Rape culture neither started nor ended in 2016, but it did seem to find its way to our newsfeed frighteningly often.
First came the disappointing conclusion of the Gomeshi trial in May. The fact that a celebrity with so much airtime on the CBC and elsewhere had been sexually harassing his colleague for years and committing multiple sexual assaults while his entourage and superiors turned a blind eye was outraging enough on its own. The fact that four counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking pretty much ended with a slap on the wrist from the court was worse. It made it very hard to keep pretending that our institutions and our society were not rigged to protect aggressors and silence victims.
Barely a month later, as if to demonstrate the scale of the problem, there was the Brock Turner case. Turner, a 20 year old student athlete at Stanford and a perfect mix of white, male and class privilege, was standing trial for raping a young woman on campus. Caught in the act by other students, he was found guilty. This could have landed him in prison for more than a decade, but he got six months in a county jail (he only served three).
A horrible event brought the discussion about rape culture a lot closer to home for many Quebecers in the fall. Multiple attackers entered the dorms of Université Laval and assaulted several students during one night in October. This sparked a wave of compassion and awareness with province-wide protests.
During a solidarity vigil in Quebec city, a young student named Alice Paquet revealed that she was raped by Liberal MNA Gerry Sklavounos back in 2012. Despite an onslaught of victim blaming and skepticism, Paquet decided to finally press charges, and her lawsuit is now in front of the Directeur des Poursuites Criminelles et Pénales. The latter will decide if the case goes to court. (MD)
US Presidential Election
For most of the year, politicos everywhere, including here in Canada, were glued to what was transpiring in the US Presidential Election. And for good reason, it was an interesting one, to say the least.
First there was the hope of some real and unexpected change in the form of the political revolution Bernie Sanders was promising. The upstart Vermont senator managed to go from basically nothing to winning 23 states in the Primaries and even got to meet with the Pope, but that wasn’t enough to beat the largest political machine out there and the Democratic Party establishment’s chosen candidate Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, another upstart candidate, though one of the secretly pro-corporate and openly far-right variety, easily clinched the Republican nomination. With the exception of a bit of plagiarism on opening night and the whole Ted Cruz non-endorsement incident, the GOP Convention was quite unified behind Trump.
The Democratic National Convention was a completely different story. Sanders delegates booed speakers endorsing Clinton and connected to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and even left the room in protest when Clinton officially won the nomination.
The ensuing General Election campaign went back and forth for a few months with each candidate having their ups and downs. Clinton’s health rumours and Wikileaks revelations and Trump’s…well, his being Donald Trump.
Well, on Election Day, the unthinkable happened. The ideal “pied piper candidate” the Democrats had sought to elevate, because he would be so easy to beat, ended up beating their “inevitable” future President.
The bogeyman came out from under the bed and was elected to office. The joke went from funny to scary. Failed casino owner and third-rate reality star Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote and became President Elect of the United States.
As Trump started building his brand new bubble filled with climate change deniers, corporate execs and white supremacists, the fight against him in the streets started and shows no signs of stopping in 2017. The real question is now: will the Democrats change gear and become a progressive alternative or stay the establishment course that led them to defeat at the hands of an orange carnival barker? (JCM)
At least Montreal didn’t spend 2016 electing a frequently cartoonish populist who doesn’t listen to experts. We had already done that back in 2013.
This was the year, though, that our Mayor, Denis Coderre, really started to shine. And by shine I mean make Montreal nationally and even globally famous for some really bad decisions and ideas.
2015 ended with the Mayor dumping untreated sewage right into the river. With that out of the way, 2016 was going to be the year where we planned for our big 375th Anniversary in 2017.
Coderre’s focus was squarely somewhere else in the last half of the year, though. After a 55-year-old woman was killed by a dog in June, Coderre tabled rather extreme Breed-Specific Legislation aimed at pit bulls, despite no initial proof that a pit bull was the culprit (and the later revelation that it absolutely wasn’t).
There were protests and even international condemnation, including that of celebrities like Cyndi Lauper. Coderre would hear none of it, though, even ordering the mic cut on an citizen during a City Council meeting.
When the so-called Pit Bull Ban, officially the Montreal Animal Control Bylaw, became law in September, the proverbial other shoe dropped. People started picking up on some of the other aspects of it, in particular the fines and fees and the fact that it covered other breeds of dog and cats, too.
The SPCA got a temporary injunction on the “dangerous breeds” aspects of the law in early October which was overturned on appeal in December. The bylaw comes into full effect March 31, 2017, at which point the SPCA will no longer deal with stray dogs or accept owner surrenders.
In September, another project met with a legal obstacle. Turns out fines Société de transport de Montréal (STM) security officers were handing out constituted a human rights violation.
While the STM will be appealing the Montreal Municipal Court decision, for now at least, they’re not supposed to be sending out squads of transit cops acting as glorified revenue generators. In practice, though, we’ve heard reports they’re still doing it.
What was really surprising was that the SPVM got warrants for this surveillance. What was not surprising at all is how high this probably went. Police Chief Philippe Pichet must have known, and he was handpicked by Mayor Coderre a few years prior.
2016 continued the sad tradition of police murdering innocent people of colour for no good reason and getting away with it (for the most part). The Black Lives Matter movement also continued to speak out against these killings.
There were two such murders in early July very close together, to the point where it was possible to confuse notification of one with the other. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile died at the hands of police in different cities in different states within 24 hours of each other.
In Dallas, Texas, a lone sniper, not part of the peaceful protest, decided to murder nine police officers, which, of course, became a national tragedy and an excuse for the right wing to incorrectly attack BLM.
In September, following the police murder of Keith Lamont Scott, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina erupted. There were days of protest and the governor declared a state of emergency on the second night.
There is sadly no sign that any of this will change in 2017, especially given the positions of the incoming administration on race and police. (JCM)
Sadly, this year was marked by the continuing conflict in Syria. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has again been accused of deliberately targeting civilians. The carnage in Aleppo reached new heights as the regime’s forces renewed their assault, driving residents to send their goodbyes over social media.
Local groups have been fighting the rising terrorist factions in Syria, namely the now famous Kurd “women’s protection unit”, also known as YPJ. However, despite their important role, their status with the international community is on shaky ground. One YPJ fighter is currently detained in Denmark under terrorism charges. (MD)
So that’s our look back at 2016 in the news. Here’s hoping for overall more uplifting stories in 2017!
A few weeks ago, there were reports that US President-Elect Donald Trump had been refusing daily intelligence briefings. His response was basically that he is a smart guy already:
“I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”
Forget, for a moment, that he completely missed the point of daily intelligence briefings and weirdly took the story personally and got defensive about it. Let us assume that he is “like, a smart person” who knows what he’s doing.
Now consider a presumably unrelated story about how the incoming administration is handling its Environmental Protection Agency transition and the full picture becomes much clearer.
Trump isn’t building a wall, he’s building a bubble.
This isn’t the famous Washington Bubble, the one that led all the insiders to believe that another Clinton was the right choice for the Democratic nomination and a surefire winner in the race to the White House, especially if she wasn’t running against a Bush. The same bubble that said a candidate with a big enough scandal couldn’t survive in a House or Senate race, let alone be elected President.
No, he burst that bubble. And while many establishment types on both sides of the aisle are trying desperately to rebuild it, the President Elect is busy building a completely different bubble.
No Daily Intelligence Briefings
Trump isn’t the first incoming President to reject daily intelligence briefings. George W. Bush did that, too. The neocons he surrounded himself with were’t thrilled with the constant talk of Al Queda when they “knew” the real threat was from Iraq (How did that work out?) .
Maybe Trump doesn’t want to hear any intelligence briefings that would contradict his belief and much argued campaign talking point that the biggest threats to America are Muslim immigrants and undocumented Mexicans. He doesn’t need some stuffy CIA operatives telling him that the real threat is elsewhere, maybe even with someone he is doing business with.
Instead, he’ll listen to Alex Jones and his incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn is someone who very well may listen to Jones himself. A noted Islamophobe, he once claimed that he personally saw signs in Arabic along the US/Mexico Border, which, of course, do not exist.
Trump wants the information he gets to mirror the half-truths and complete falsehoods he campaigned on. The only way for that to happen is if he gets his info in a bubble, a bubble he is helping to build.
When the Science Doesn’t Fit, Change the Scientists
Trump appointed Climate Change denier and man who sued the EPA twelve times, Scott Pruitt, as the agency’s new head. Then he put the man who couldn’t remember the name of the Energy Department but still wanted to dismantle it, Rick Perry, in charge of it.
Those antagonistic picks are in keeping with most of Trump’s cabinet choices so far. They’re really just the tip of the iceberg, though (assuming there still are icebergs in a few years).
A couple of weeks ago, Trump’s transition team asked for the names of Energy Department employees and contractors who “have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.” Fortunately, the Energy Department did deny the request, but it looks like a purge is what Team Trump is going for.
If a purge is imminent, it will signal not only that Trump really does believe, as he once tweeted, that climate change is a scam invented by China, but that he doesn’t want to hear any expert opinion that contradicts that talking point.
It’s not just threats to the country that can’t enter the bubble, it’s threats to the planet, too, apparently.
What Happens When the Bubble Bursts?
Ask any economist and they will tell you that bubbles burst. Come to think of it, anyone who has tried, as a kid or youthful adult, to catch a bubble and keep it whole can tell you the same thing. Trump’s bubble is no different.
Just because Trump doesn’t want to hear about Climate Change doesn’t mean the climate will stop changing. Just because he doesn’t get to hear someone telling him every day that his plan to fight terror will only cause more of it, doesn’t mean it won’t.
At some point, the Trump bubble will burst. The question is will he realize it and change his ways or at least his policies and the people he has around him, or will he stay the course and instruct his acolytes to rebuild the bubble at all costs?
George W. Bush’s bubble burst twice. The first time was on 9/11. At first, it seemed, he started listening to outside voices. But soon enough, Bin Laden was a job for the next guy and he was going to war with Iraq.
The bubble was rebuilt, even Katrina couldn’t puncture it. The financial crisis of 2008 did burst it again, but by that point, he didn’t care. It was a problem for the next guy to deal with.
While all indications are that Trump will behave in a similar fashion, we can all (and I mean the whole world) only hope that when the bubble he is building does burst, he will surprise us all again (the way he did when he won) and do the right thing.
Unlikely, sure. But the alternative (think nukes) could be catastrophic.
President Trump. President Donald Trump. Yes, a few months from now that will be an actual thing people say. For now, he’s President Elect, but sadly, he is no longer a joke and he never should have been. We need to keep fighting Trump.
The over-the-top reality star will soon be Commander-in-Chief of the largest military in the world. Islamophobia, racism and misogyny have been part of American politics for a while, but they just went uber-mainstream with Trump’s win a little over a week ago.
What’s now frighteningly apparent is that his alt-right (really a fancy way to say white nationalists with computer skills) base, emboldened by his win, are voicing their bigotry and hatred and scaring the crap out of immigrants, visible minorities and anyone that doesn’t fit into their white supremacist, misogynistic and anti-Semetic worldview.
Swastikas are showing up all over the US, people are being attacked, middle schoolers are even chanting “build that wall” and making school a frightening place for some of their classmates. Buzzfeed has even put together a tracker of racist incidents in the US since the Trump victory.
While Trump did tell his supporters to stop it with their racist attacks and graffiti, his early staff choices send the opposite message. He just appointed Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart “News” as CEO until joining the Trump campaign, his top policy adviser. Bannon had proudly declared Breitbart to be a “platform for the alt-right” and oversaw the publication of articles with incredibly nasty headlines.
Throw in promises to break US climate agreements and the prospect of a second Supreme Court pick after he fills Scalia’s seat and you get a picture that is terrifying for people of colour, the LGBT community, women and the planet.
How Did We Get Here?
President Trump is bad news, that much is clear. But why is this now a reality? It’s because no one took his candidacy seriously. Comics thought him running would produce gold for them, but no worries, because, of course he wouldn’t win. Pundits, same thing. Even I didn’t take him seriously at first.
It’s true that Trump’s core support came from xenophobic racist misogynists and they’re now the ones strutting and scaring the shit out of everyone, but this “basket of deplorables” weren’t the only ones who voted for him. If they were, the electoral map would have looked quite different. The bigots are still a minority.
It’s white working class voters in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and now Michigan that tipped the balance this time around. It’s not that their privilege blinded them to what a Trump Presidency could mean, it’s simply that Trump’s obvious bigotry meant less to them than the prospect of losing jobs due to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) did. Some lifelong rust belt Democrats who voted Obama twice and supported Bernie in the Primaries switched to Trump in the General.
A truly selfish act, to be sure, and an ultimately counterproductive one. Stopping the TPP is probably the first campaign promise Trump will break.
There was also a real feeling of dissatisfaction with the political establishment which Trump, posing as a populist, was able to tap into. If the choice had been between a right-wing, xenophobic pseudo-populist and a real left-wing populist like Bernie Sanders, Sanders would have easily won.
This election also proved that standard political tactics like a good ground game and mainstream media support are now less important than huge rallies and a solid social media strategy. Trump ran an unconventional campaign, so did Sanders. Clinton played it business as usual and lost.
What Needs to Happen Now in the Democratic Party
It’s all water under the bridge, now, but that water is what people need for drinking and bathing, so we can’t ignore how we got here and Democrats can’t ignore the mistakes they made. If they do, they are bound to repeat them.
The party establishment didn’t just lose. They lost to a third-rate PT Barnum who only ran to get a better TV deal with NBC. They lost to a man who admitted to being sexual predator during a national radio interview and who has bragged on tape about sexual assault. They lost to their dream opponent. They lost to Donald Fucking Trump.
If that’s not the impetus Democrats need to show their leadership the door, I don’t know what is. Now is the time to replace everyone at the top who pushed for Clinton over Sanders in the Primaries. Progressives need to take over the Democratic Party…soon!
If there is pushback, and there will be, fight it. If the pushback from the DNC establishment succeeds, it might be time to think about a new party. Even as President, Trump may end up destroying the Republican Party and there could be room for a new party in the two-party system.
What Needs to Happen Now Outside of the Echo Chamber
I had thought, as did many, that if he won, protests against Trump would start on day one of his Presidency. I was wrong. They started less than 24 hours after he won the Electoral College vote and became the President Elect.
From mass marches in New York City, Chicago and around the country to high school students walking out of class, people are voicing their displeasure with an impending Trump Presidency and what it will mean for them and their communities. This needs to continue.
No, the whole “just accept the election results” line or the “give him a chance” attitude don’t fly in this case. First, he’s already shown us by appointing Bannon that he blew his chance to change the tone to a more President of all Americans one. Second, protesting the government, or even an incoming government is never wrong, in fact, it’s a right.
If Clinton had won and stepped too far to the right with her picks, I would expect progressives, even those who voted for her, to be challenging her every step of the way. Now with Trump living up to the worst nightmare scenario fears and his most fervent bigoted supporters having their day in the sun, protesting has become a necessity.
An election does not give the winner immunity from protest in a democracy. When the President Elect is promising to usher in a downright dangerous environment for marginalized groups, those groups and their allies should challenge the President Elect any way they can.
As for tactics, hitting the streets, boycotting Trump-aligned brands and calling out racism and misogyny can all be effective. Right here in Montreal, there is a Stop Bannon Phone-a-Thon putting Americans living here in touch with their local elected officials. There is also a solidarity action in the US encouraging people who aren’t the target of persecution (ie. white people) to register as Muslims if Trump enacts a registry.
While I like the idea behind the move to impeach Trump, I’d like to remind those behind it that success would only lead to President Mike Pence, who, in many ways, is just as bad if not worse.
I would recommend aligning anti-Trump protests with other groups fighting against the things that this incoming President stands for. Solidarity with the #NODAPL protesters, for example, would be a great first step.
Politicians, other people and the mainstream media not taking Trump seriously during the Primaries and the General Election is what got us here. We can’t afford not to take the threat of a Trump Presidency seriously now. It’s time to fight.
The United States is, was, and most likely will continue to be a two-party system. Changing that would be, to put it mildly, an uphill battle and one unlikely to be won with the Electoral College still in place.
All hope of breaking away from the corporate duopoly that now exists and achieving real progress is not lost, though. In fact, it may be a strong possibility in four or eight years. There is a historical precedent.
Zachary Taylor and the Whigs
Ever hear of Zachary Taylor? He was the 12th President of the United States. He was elected under the banner of the Whig Party and served a little over a year in office beginning in 1849 until his death in 1850, when his Vice President Millard Fillmore assumed office for the rest of his term.
Never heard of the Whig Party? Not surprising. They were one of the two major US parties, along with the Democrats, that benefited from the two-party system. However, they never elected another President after the end of the Taylor/Fillmore term.
Why? Because Taylor was not a typical Whig candidate. In fact, he crossed with the party he became the standard bearer of on many issues, most notably on slavery. You could say he destroyed the Whig Party despite being successful electorally.
The Democratic Party took over for the next two Presidents until a third party challenger took power. His name was Abraham Lincoln and the third party he represented was an upstart organization called the Republican Party.
The two-party system continued, only one of those parties had now changed.
Back in June, Politico wrote a thorough analysis of how Taylor destroyed the Whigs. They also drew a historical parallel between that clash and the current animosity between Donald Trump and the establishment of that once upstart third party, now establishment brand known as the GOP.
A few months ago, a split was just a possibility, but now it looks like it’s happening. Establishment Republicans, including former supporters, have been desertin’ Trump in droves following the Access Hollywood leak. Guess attacking married white women was just a bridge too far for the GOP establishment.
Meanwhile, Trump supporters and the candidate himself have been attacking some of their fellow Republicans almost as much as they have been attacking Hillary Clinton. One Trump supporter even told The Young Turks that GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan is in cahoots with Clinton and was the one who leaked the Trump Tape. Lack of logic notwithstanding, you know that guy votes.
This Election Day, we could potentially see some Republicans going to the polls, choosing GOP House and Senate candidates but leaving President blank, writing someone in or even checking Clinton. At the same time, hardcore Trump supporters could vote to put their guy into the White House but leave the rest of the ballot blank to punish the GOP brass for deserting The Donald.
November 8th could spell electoral disaster for the Republican Party and the wound may be too deep to heal. It’s possible that what would be considered a third party challenge today could be one of the two dominant parties in a two-party system four, eight or twelve years from now, depending on how quickly the GOP collapses electorally and internally.
The Best Outcome for the Two-Party System
If it does go down like this, the most likely thing to happen is the remnants of the Republican establishment will join up with the Democrats. I mean if a Bush can vote for a Clinton, anything is possible. Maybe they’d even resurrect the very old name Democrat – Republican Party, like back in the day.
They’d be the corporate party, the establishment party, the Wall Street party. They’d have to reach a compromise on hot button social issues, but since the far right base that the GOP had nurtured would have been lost to Trump, I suspect they would end up going left of centre on issues like abortion, marriage equality and trans rights but, as a compromise, swing right on guns.
When it comes to climate change (including pipelines), racism and police violence, campaign finance reform and war, I suspect they would do what the Dems almost always do: talk a good progressive game but in practice, it’s business as usual.
So that’s one of the two parties. The real question would be who would fill the void left by the demise of the GOP. If it turns out to be the Libertarian Party or some new Alt-Right monstrosity, then America is screwed. No more, though, than the country is already. Having to side with the corporate establishment to get some sort of social progress is pretty much the status quo.
However, this would also be a golden opportunity for a truly progressive third party, maybe the Green Party or a new entity formed by BernieCrats, to take over the slot as one of the two main parties. The way around all the impediments to revolution and/or progress within a two-party system may exist within that system. You just need to completely replace one of the two major parties.
You may have seen that meme. The one contrasting two Bernie Sanders rallies.
In the first image, taken when he was still running for President, Bernie’s in a stadium surrounded by thousands of people. In the second, he’s promoting Hillary Clinton to about 150 people in what looks like some sort of auditorium:
I suspect the sharp attendance drop isn’t due to the speaker but rather the subject matter. It’s not what the thousands who flocked to him in the primaries want to hear him say, or at least not what will motivate them to come out in droves and hear him speak.
Think of a famous musician or band that you and quite a few others adore. They’ve got so many hits, but they also have that one album that really seems out of place. Now imagine they were going on tour and promised just to play songs from that one album very few like.
Sure, some may show up. Diehard fans and those few who actually do like the obscure material. But it won’t be anything like the attendance they would get on a regular tour.
It’s not that people no longer like the artist, they just don’t like the tunes they’ll be playing. It’s not that people no longer like Bernie, it’s just that they really aren’t fans of “We have to all vote Hillary to stop Trump.”
Now some of those Bernie fans staying home may very well vote for Hillary Clinton to prevent a Trump Presidency. They’re just not super excited about doing it.
DNC Logic Fail
It could have been easy for the Democrats this election cycle. They could have picked someone who inspired people by the thousands. Those who flocked to Obama in 08 but felt disappointed overall by the result were ready for Bernie to be the next phase, the one that would actually make the change happen. People who never voted before, or never voted for a major party before, were ready to do so for Bernie.
Problem was that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and establishment Democrats already had their nominee (the leaks proved it). They didn’t want Bernie to run for President under their banner, but they did want the people who flocked to him to vote Democrat in November.
The Dems thought they had the perfect solution: rig the Primaries against him, then convince Sanders to come on board and support Clinton. They had to make some concessions in the platform to do so, but it didn’t matter, once elected, they could do what they wanted to.
They got Bernie on board, so why didn’t their plan work? Surely all these people were just following a charismatic leader and would continue to follow him wherever he led them.
That thinking by the DNC is why America now faces the prospect of a reality TV star turned Twitter troll turned cornball fascist actually becoming President. The Democrats couldn’t see outside of their own bubble of top-down leadership and cult of personality.
If they had looked deeper, just a bit deeper, they would have remembered that Bernie Sanders had been saying the same things in pretty much the same way for decades. None of it had received much response outside of Vermont until 2015. They would have realized that it was only after the Occupy Movement happened and people began searching for a political voice that was aligned with their thinking that Sanders went from being someone people knew (and loved) in Burlington to a political phenom that millions wanted to see in the White House.
The movement that backed Bernie existed before it became Bernie’s political revolution. The people involved chose him as their champion and he agreed. When he stopped speaking for them and started speaking for Hillary, it was the end of that unofficial contract. They had chosen Bernie as their representative, they never chose Hillary, even if Bernie did.
You can co-opt a progressive politician. You can’t co-opt a progressive, bottom-up movement. The only thing you can do is embrace it and let it tell you where to go. The DNC clearly didn’t think of that, and now they’re paying for it.
Bernie’s Movement in Pieces
Now, Bermie’s movement is fragmented politically. Some have followed Bernie and gone to Hillary. Revolution later, stop Trump now, presumably. Others are supporting Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein, which makes most logical sense policy-wise.
A few, though, are outright voting Trump, I’m guessing to give the middle finger to the DNC, also probably all white. Some have chosen Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, which really confounds me. He’s like the anti-Bernie on many issues.
Yet, there are more who plan to simply write in Bernie’s name on the ballot and others who plan to stay home, or go to the bar, on election day.
So this huge block of voters that would have all voted Democrat? They’re not a block anymore. Also, those volunteers that would have campaigned for Democrats up and down the ticket provided Bernie was at the top? Not gonna happen. Huge opportunity missed.
Instead, the Democrats’ path to retaining the White House relies on their traditional supporters and the fear of a Trump victory. Currently, Clinton and Trump are pretty much tied, with Clinton losing in key battleground states. Sure, it’s only by a little bit and tonight’s debate may turn that around, but the fact that it is even a contest is the real problem, a problem that the DNC could have avoided.
With all of the former Berners added to those who always vote Democrat added to those who fear a real life version of Idiocracy, Trump wouldn’t have stood a chance. The debates would have just been icing on the cake.
People want to vote for something. Now they have to vote against something and that’s never a good situation.
As for Bernie, he’ll draw the crowds once he starts playing the hits again.
Forty-four hours after the police shot and killed another person of colour, Charlotte (North Carolina) is under a state of emergency. One man is on life support and the mayor is raising the possibility of imposing a curfew amidst calls for peace and demands for answers.
It all started Tuesday with a despairingly familiar scenario: a police officer fatally shot a 43 year old black man named Keith Lamont Scott for questionable reasons. Police claim that the man had a handgun that he was refusing to drop. Eyewitnesses claim that Scott was only holding a book and that he tried to get out of his truck with his hands up.
Tuesday: Shooting and Mass Protests
One thing is undisputed: it ended with Keith Lamont Scott being shot four times at 3:54 PM. The shots were fired by Brentley Vinson, a black officer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.
Family and eyewitnesses soon took to social media to spread their version of the events. Three hours later, people were already taking to the streets and demanding justice.
Three hours and 45 minutes after the shooting, police stated that the protest was turning violent, and that one officer was injured while trying to de-escalate a situation.
The Mayor of Charlotte, Jennifer Roberts, issued a first statement urging the community to stay calm. A few minutes later, she issued another one to announce a full investigation into the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, saying that the community deserves answers.
Around 11 PM, police ordered the crowd to disperse and deployed tear gas. Clashes with police continued throughout the night. A group of protesters shut down Interstate 85. Different sources report rocks thrown at police cars, two trucks looted, and two fires started.
However, even the Mayor said that the mass protest, in a park, was peaceful. The rioting and looting that happened near the interstate and downtown was the doing of a small group of agitators.
Wednesday Morning: A Gun or a Book?
On Wednesday morning, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney held a press conference to share the police’s conclusion. Officers approached Scott while they were trying to execute an arrest warrant for someone else. Putney said that Scott exited his vehicule, then got back into it before coming out with a gun in his hand and ignored orders to drop it as he advanced towards police officers.
“The officers gave loud, clear verbal commands that were also heard by many of the witnesses […] to drop the weapon,” claimed Putney. “Despite the verbal commands, Mr. Scott exited the vehicle as the officers continued to yell at him to drop it. He stepped out, posing a threat to the officers, and Officer Brentley Vinson subsequently fired his weapon, striking the subject.”
The CMPD (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department) recovered a gun at the scene and insists there was no book. Later in the day, a photo of the crime scene where a gun can be seen reached the media. The source of the photo is unclear, but the initial tweet of a local reporter says it’s from CMPD.
The family of the victim is convinced that this is not how it happened. They say Keith Lamont Scott was a disabled father of seven children, well-known and liked in his community. They believe he “wouldn’t have it in him to hurt a policeman.” According to them, he was sitting in his truck and reading while he waited for the school bus to drop his kids off.
Peaceful protests rapidly degenerated. One man ended up on life support and the city was put under state of emergency.
Around 7 PM, on Wednesday, Scott’s wife addressed the protesters, encouraging them to keep the peace: “Please do not hurt people or members of law enforcement, damage property or take things that don’t belong to you.”
Two dozen people reportedly sat silently for a while in front of a Bank of America building, holding up Black Lives Matter signs. A peaceful crowd of men, women and children gathered in Marshall Park before marching through the city. You can read a detailed account of the night in Charlotte Magazine. However the atmosphere easily tipped into chaos. Tear gas and explosives joined the game before 8 PM.
At 8:30 PM, someone was shot somewhere near North College and East Trade streets. The city soon tweeted that the shooting was “civilian on civilian. CMPD did not fire shot.” The victim is currently on life support.
One eyewitness, Minister Steve Knight of Missiongathering Christian Church in Charlotte, shared his skepticism: “It was an ambush. The victim was shot while he stood between two ministers, and we believe he was shot by police. We would like to see surveillance video from the surrounding area that may have captured the shooting to determine who was responsible for the shooting.”
Later that night, while police used rubber bullets to disperse protesters, the Governor Pat McCrory declared a State of Emergency. He dispatched the National Guard and State Highway Patrol troopers to help local law enforcement.
Gov. McCrory had very harsh words for the protesters since the first night. Incidentally, he also recently passed a law to restrict viewing of police body cam and dash cam recordings. Essentially, he signed off on a bill to take police recordings off public records, effectively allowing law enforcement to keep them from media or citizens.
Thanks to this, the dash cam footage of Scott’s death will probably never be publicly released. Chief Putney said that they would try to accommodate the family’s request to see it, but that he had no intention of releasing it “to the masses.”
“Transparency’s in the eye of the beholder,” he said on Thursday. “If you think we should display a victim’s worst day for public consumption, that is not the transparency I’m speaking of.”
He also warned that the recording did not definitely show Scott holding a gun.
Also on Thursday, Mayor Roberts appeared on ABC news to convey three messages: the city is fine and open for business (do not panic), the majority of protesters was peaceful (we’re on your side) and the possibility of imposing a curfew will be discussed (yes, we can do that because of the State of Emergency).
“A peaceful protest, and many folks do want to express their views peacefully, turned into something else last night,” said Roberts.
The Department of Justice just sent four members of their Community Relations Service to Charlotte. Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave a press conference this morning, assuring that they were “monitoring the matter” and that they were looking into the circumstances of Keith Lamont Scott’s death.
A video report from Democracy Now! shows a group of persons trying to disperse the crowd with dogs and pepper spray. We can see several protesters who have clearly been maced in the face and a man showing the bloody dog bite on his arm.
Activist Martie Simmons, who was present, tweeted that six protesters, including a pregnant woman were bitten. Four private security guards and two guard dogs were injured, according to the local Sheriff’s Office (Morton County). The nature of the injuries suffered by the dogs and the guards were undisclosed but eyewitnesses affirm that the dogs were out of control, and bit the guards too.
Police say they received no reports of injured protesters.The sheriff’s office confirmed there was no officers present at the confrontation.
Indigenous resistance to the DAPL
Standing Rock’s Sioux tribe has organized opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline ever since the project first became public two years ago. The trajectory of the pipeline is set to skim their reserve and cross the Missouri River twice, causing concerns about water contamination and protection of cultural heritage sites.
Thousands of indigenous people from the US and Canada responded to the call of the Sioux of Standing Rock and set up camps near the Missouri River. Over a hundred tribes are represented in what became known as the oil protest camps, what could be one of the biggest assemblies of Indigenous Peoples this century. Non-native activists also joined the ranks.
Meanwhile, the Sioux of Standing Rock are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for fast-tracking construction permits without consulting them.
The DAPL is a $4.88 billion pipeline that should conduct half a million barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken Oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline will be just under 1900 km long and run through four states.
According to the Chairman of the Sioux Tribe of Standing Rock, Dave Archambault II, the pipeline threatens the lives of the people on the reserve and of the millions of people living downstream on the Missouri River, as well as ancestral Sioux sites.
“We never had an opportunity to express our concerns. This is a corporation that is bulldozing through,” Archambault told Democracy Now!.
His tribe is currently challenging the permits of Energy Transfer Partners in federal court on the grounds that the promoters did not adequately consult First Nations. They called for an emergency, temporary stopping of the construction on Tuesday, claiming that the company is already desecrating their burial sites. The federal court will announce its verdict on September 9th.
A Canadian Company
The DAPL is co-piloted by the American company Energy Transfer Partners and the Calgary-based Enbridge. Enbridge is no stranger to controversy, as it was recently forced by Canada’s federal court to give up on the Northern Gateway pipeline for similar reasons.
The $7.9 billion pipeline meant to export Albertan petroleum to the west coast had first been authorized by the Conservative government, despite the strong opposition of the native communities near its trajectory. However a federal appeal court revoked the permits in July, ruling that the Enbridge had not adequately consulted the affected aboriginal communities.
In 2015, Enbridge broke records by racking up $264 000 in fines from the National Energy Board, mostly because of safety and environmental hazards. However, the NEB ended up cancelling most of the fines due to lack of evidence.
Enbridge incidentally made the news today for acquiring Spectra Energy. The $37 billion transaction, if it is approved by appropriate authorities, could make Enbridge the biggest player on the North American market of energy infrastructure.