Tear Gassing Voters and Children in North Carolina

Police spraying demonstrators in Graham, NC. Photo by Anthony Crider, published under Creative Commons license.

Police pepper-sprayed a disabled woman in a motorized wheelchair, children, and many others at a peaceful march to the polls in Graham, North Carolina on Saturday, October 31. The march and rally were held to encourage voting, and in memory of people killed by police, from George Floyd all the way back to Wyatt Outlaw. 

Shortly after the Civil War, Wyatt Outlaw became the first Black man to be elected Town Commissioner and Constable of Graham, North Carolina. In 1870, he was lynched by the Ku Klux Klan. Near the courthouse where Saturday’s march ended. Near the courthouse where a Confederate statue has been the focus of demonstrations. Near the courthouse where people were headed to vote, when they were pepper-sprayed by the police in 2020. 

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For My Mom: Notes on Corruption

Yes, he is a crook.

During one of the long phone conversations that substitute for actual visits these pandemic days, my mom asked about Trump’s financial (mis)dealings. I have written about them before, but more information has come out in recent days. So here’s another take: Mom, this one’s for you!

Trump has used the presidency to make millions of dollars for his businesses, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. His suppression of criminal charges against Turkish Halkbank sell out U.S. interests. And his financial dealings with Deutsche Bank and the hundreds of millions of dollars he owes tie in with his business failures, losses, and evasion of income taxes

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Resisting With Joy in 2020

Kamala Harris in Jacksonville, dancing in the rain.

In Philadelphia, people sang and danced up a storm as voters waited in long lines for early voting. In Texas, more than 43 percent of registered voters have already voted. In 2016, a total of 59 percent voted in the presidential election. A marching band and drumline, dressed in white and masked against COVID, greeted voters at New York City’s Barclay Center on the first day of early voting. Ora Smith, 102, handed in her absentee ballot in South Carolina last week. A cavalcade of Latino voters on horseback rode to the Walnut Recreation Center in Las Vegas to vote on October 24. In Florida, Kamala Harris held an umbrella against the rain as she danced to Mary Blige’s “Work That.”  

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Covering Up Human Rights Violations

Gender-based violence? Denial of reproductive rights? Violence against LGBTI persons? Sexual slavery in military training camps? The Trump State Department has de-emphasized all of these human rights violations in country reports, according to a just-released analysis from the Asylum Research Centre.

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“You’re Fired!” Trump Eliminates Civil Service Protection

Trump Won’t Drain the Swamp. Trump IS the Swamp. (Photo by Fibonacci Blue, used under Creative Commons license)

In a sweeping executive order, Trump has just eliminated civil service protection for hundreds of thousands of federal employees. In so doing, he also eliminated the veterans’ preference for hiring for those positions. 

His order probably violates federal laws. It most certainly demonstrates ignorance and contempt for the civil service system established in 1883. That system was established to end the political “spoils system” of giving federal jobs to political cronies without regard for merit or ability.

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Watching Science Die

Coronavirus
Coronavirus from Wikimedia Commons

Pro Publica’s deep dive into the destruction at the Centers for Disease Control reads like a bad disaster novel: a deadly virus, scientists scrambling to meet the challenge, politicians sabotaging their efforts at every turn. Perhaps the most stark illustration comes from the church directive. The CDC had identified a COVID-19 outbreak at an Arkansas church that caused four deaths. In another superspreader event, 52 of 61 singers at a choir practice got COVID-19, and two died. Singing and chanting were identified as especially high-risk behaviors for spreading the disease. Despite the evidence, in late May President Trump announced that churches were “essential services” and that the CDC would release safety guidelines. Pro Public reports:

“[CDC Dr. Jay] Butler’s team rushed to finalize the guidance for churches, synagogues and mosques that Trump’s aides had shelved in April after battling the CDC over the language. In reviewing a raft of last-minute edits from the White House, Butler’s team rejected those that conflicted with CDC research, including a worrisome suggestion to delete a line that urged congregations to ‘consider suspending or at least decreasing’ the use of choirs.

“On Friday, Trump’s aides called the CDC repeatedly about the guidance, according to emails. ‘Why is it not up?’ they demanded until it was posted on the CDC website that afternoon.

“The next day, a furious call came from the office of the vice president: The White House suggestions were not optional. The CDC’s failure to use them was insubordinate, according to emails at the time.

“Fifteen minutes later, one of Butler’s deputies had the agency’s text replaced with the White House version, the emails show. The danger of singing wasn’t mentioned.”

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Deep in the Swamp: It’s More Than His Taxes

Image by Harvey Finch, used under Creative Commons license

After promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Trump has proved to be among the biggest swamp critters there. The New York Times finally got copies of tax returns that Trump still refuses to release to the public. They found that he paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and $750 in 2017, and that he paid no federal income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years.  Other recent reports show his resorts making money from his visits and a new directive that will use taxpayer money to boost his re-election campaign.

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Loving the Country and Dumping the Demagogue

Trump says he will not commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. He says he wants to “get rid of the ballots.” A very scary and detailed article in The Atlantic describes Trump campaign plans to subvert or derail the electoral college process. 

The common thread of all of Trump’s threats and plans is distraction. Trump’s most outrageous statements take attention away from real issues: like hundreds of thousands of people dying from COVID-19, like the racism that he inflames and amplifies, like his ongoing effort to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, like the profits that billionaires are raking in during the pandemic, like his refusal to respond to climate change. 

Trump’s most outrageous threats are no more than sound and fury. They are meant to distract from the issues, from his sagging polling figures, and from his failures as president. They are meant to inspire fear and despair. 

Remember the booming voice and overwhelming power projected by the “great and powerful” Wizard of Oz? Remember when Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal a little man pulling levers and speaking into a megaphone? That’s Trump. 

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Who Profits in the Pandemic?

Photo by Jernej Furman, published under Creative Commons license.

As small businesses fail and lines at food banks lengthen, billionaires are getting richer in these pandemic times. Business Insider reports that U.S. billionaires’ wealth increased by $845 billion during the first six months of the pandemic. Take Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. His personal wealth increased from $73.2 billion to $113 billion, and Amazon shares rose by 40% in 2020. 

And it’s not just that billionaires are getting richer. They gap between the very rich and the rest of us is growing, and the poor are getting even poorer. The Institute for Policy Studies reports:

“Between March 18 and April 10, 2020, over 22 million people lost their jobs as the unemployment rate surged toward 15 percent. Over the same three weeks, U.S. billionaire wealth increased by $282 billion, an almost 10 percent gain.”

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Making your vote count

Misinformation about voting is everywhere this year. Despite that, voting has never been easier in Minnesota.

Each state, not the federal government, sets up voting rules. Some states encourage voting by mail. For example, Oregon mails a ballot to every registered voter, as there is no in-person voting. Vote-by-mail has been Oregon’s only voting for 22 years. 

Some states limit absentee or mail voting. In Texas, you can only vote by mail if you are unable to vote in person. If you are afraid of long lines and crowded polling places in Texas: tough luck! That’s your only option.

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