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Joe Biden Just Made History and Picked Kamala Harris as His VP Candidate

Mother Jones Magazine -

Former Vice President Joe Biden has officially selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate, and in doing so has made history, as Harris will be the first Black woman on a major party’s presidential ticket. Harris was long rumored to be a top choice for the slot, and now she’s tasked with energizing a Democratic electorate that’s torn between a moderate forebearer at the top and an increasingly large proportion of voters who want to see dramatic change during a summer marked by a broad uprising over deep-seated racial injustice and a pandemic that’s killed more than 160,000 Americans. 

In Harris, Biden has chosen a Democratic favorite who toiled long and hard in California politics before breaking through on the national stage in the Senate and in running for president last year. She’s also a plainly strategic pick for the moment; Biden clearly thinks that choosing a Black woman—and this Black woman specifically—will help him overcome the lukewarm response he’s gotten from more liberal voters and criminal justice activists who still cite his baggage, like the 1994 crime bill and his praise of segregationist senators. Just this summer, prison abolitionist and academic Angela Davis said she was voting for Biden but admitted, “Biden is very problematic in many ways, not only in terms of his past and the role that he played in pushing toward mass incarceration, but he has indicated that he is opposed to disbanding the police, and this is definitely what we need.” She added later on Democracy Now, “The election will not so much be about who gets to lead the country to a better future, but rather how we can support ourselves and our own ability to continue to organize and place pressure on those in power. And I don’t think there’s a question about which candidate would allow that process to unfold.”

Biden clearly thinks that choosing a Black woman—and this Black woman specifically—will help him overcome the lukewarm response he’s gotten from more liberal voters and criminal justice activists who still cite his baggage.

But it’s still unclear if Harris can bridge this specific gap.  

In a profile I wrote of the senator back in 2018, I argued that her entire career could be defined by taking the “inside track”—trying to effect change within a broken system. She started her career in public service as district attorney of San Francisco and then served as attorney general of California, where her track record was mixed and the biggest knock against her came from progressives who chided her for being too cautious and too deferential to law enforcement. It’s where she developed the “Kamala Is a Cop” reputation that has followed her (and weighed her down) for years.

But while the “inside track” is what she’s done, it’s also informed who she is as a politician. At the end of last year, I revisited that profile and wrote: “I should’ve looked closer not necessarily at what she did, but at who she is. Harris represents a particular strain of Black American political thought: moderation. It’s the idea that change doesn’t come suddenly but slowly, piece by hard-fought piece, and is led by people who work to gain access to power. She was always going to be an uneasy fit in this political moment.”

When she announced her run for president in January of 2019, she did so in her hometown of Oakland, triumphant in front of a crowd of 20,000 supporters. And as I wrote in February of last year, some in the campaign were hopeful that by installing Harris’ sister and close confidante, Maya, an attorney with well-respected racial justice credentials, at the top of the campaign, she could help make inroads with skeptical Black activists. But the strategy only sort of worked, as I argued when she dropped out of the race last year. Harris’ career in law enforcement was subjected to real scrutiny in the primary, and younger voters of color by and large ended up preferring Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Ultimately, despite a few standout moments on the debate stage, the Harris campaign largely failed to adequately make the case for what elevated the California senator from the rest of the pack. (Ironically, the most memorable moment of her campaign happened in a debate confrontation with Biden, when she dredged up his 1970s opposition to school busing with a personal story of being bused to elementary school in Berkeley, California—a moment that reportedly irked Biden and those closest to him. As my colleague Pema Levy wrote, that moment now seems to be the basis for sexist attacks on Harris’ “ambition” by nameless sources who tried to block her from the VP slot.) 

Since then, the political landscape has changed dramatically. Following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer this spring, in the middle of a pandemic that’s disproportionately taking the lives of people of color, a broad swath of criminal justice reformers and even some mainstream Democrats have been shouting loudly about the once-radical idea of the abolition of the police altogether.

While Harris had mostly stayed out of the spotlight since suspending her campaign, she joined protests outside of the White House in June amid outrage over Floyd’s death. She took a leading role in helping Democrats craft and pass in the House a broad police reform measure (which included a proposal Harris has pushed that would make lynching a federal crime). More recently, she came out in support of a police use-of-force reform proposal in California that she’d previously declined to support. She even debated what it meant to defund the police with Meghan McCain on The View, carefully suggesting that the conversation was about reimagining “how we are achieving public safety.” 

Is all this enough to bring along—and turn out—once-skeptical activists as well as the Black voters who sat out in 2016?

Harris offers that rare combination of relative youth (she’s 55) and real experience in public office. And it’s this experience—once a liability—that makes her uniquely positioned to speak with authority on how and why law enforcement has been at odds with Black communities. There’s also one more reality that can’t be discounted: She’s a Black woman of Jamaican and Indian descent, once deemed “the female Barack Obama.” In these times of hyperpartisan bickering and a ratcheting up of the culture wars by Trump, identity and representation matter. Don’t forget it’s also this life experience that she’ll bring to the position—one that should, and will, inform policy. 

Please Excuse My Lack of Gratitude Over a Female Vice President

Mother Jones Magazine -

Update: We know who he picked! It’s Kamala

Reading Kate Manne’s new book, Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women, during a particularly insipid conversation about woman-as-vice-president gives this feminist philosopher’s clear-eyed analysis of misogyny an element of timeliness that translates to something of a gut punch.  

“It reinforces this notion that women can have power, as long as that’s in service of a patriarchal figure.” 

The book, out today, is smart and insightful, but it’s hard to walk away from it feeling anything but anger and frustration and discouragement—particularly in light of the who-will-he-pick speculation regarding Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate that has drawn inevitable yet cringey Bachelor metaphors. It’s not just the water cooler talk that’s infuriating though, it’s also the way Biden himself has talked about the veepstakes. (Perhaps this will finally replace his “I-championed-the-Violence-Against-Women-Act” bit, which usually ends with him looking expectantly for someone to hand him a cookie.) Will it be Kamala Harris, who ran against him in the Democratic primaries, or is she “too ambitious”? Could we stomach Elizabeth Warren, her endless stash of plans that might overshadow Biden’s competency, and all that “anger” of hers? Could it be Susan Rice, who served as the national security adviser in the Obama administration? She gets points because he “knows exactly what he’s getting with Susan.” Maybe it will be a lesser-known politico, like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or California Rep. Karen Bass, who have been held up as somewhat less imposing options. The point is, on that day in March when Biden pledged he would pick “a woman”—any woman!—as his veep, we women should have been downright grateful for the scraps thrown our way. Right?

Wrong! Kate Manne says so, and so say I.

“It’s just amazing that the qualities that we positively embrace in male leaders become somehow moralized and the same traits are labeled in a pejorative way when a woman instantiates them,” Manne told me last week. “Suddenly, it’s not that she’s prepared to lead and she’s someone who has a vision, it’s that she’s ‘ambitious’  in a tone that all but entails that she is the worst for having ambition, when of course that’s the main reason someone would want to be vice president.”

But to make any progress, to stop getting the scraps, we need to dismantle the power structures that inherently favor those who are male and white. The first step here is to understand how these structures operate, which Manne explores in a chapter toward the end of Entitled called “Unelectable—On the Entitlement to Power.” Here, Manne cites a 2004 study that essentially demonstrated a reluctance to consider a woman can be as competent in leadership as a man unless she demonstrated certain “communal” traits: acting as a team player, being supportive of her colleagues, and, you know, kinda cheerleader-y. Maybe the sort of woman who would put “proud wife + mom” in her Twitter bio. Someone non-threatening, who still defines her identity and power at least partly in relation to the men around her. Someone who will not chafe at all the emotional labor she will be expected to perform. 

Reading the book is in fact a bit like taking a sweeping tour, a la It’s a Wonderful Life, of one’s history experiencing misogyny, except Manne is a sharper, more astute Clarence. 

Still, a woman as VP is something, and after more than four years of listening to President Donald Trump freely spout his misogynistic views with little to no consequence, I almost feel guilty for criticizing Biden in this way. And to be clear, having a woman as vice president is not an inherently bad thing—in fact, it is worth celebrating. It’s just not enough. “I do think it’s a step in the right direction, but it’s a very small step,” Manne says. “And I actually think that it’s in danger of reinforcing certain biases.” She adds, “A real cost is that it reinforces this notion that women can have power, as long as that’s in service of a patriarchal figure, and as long as it’s by being communal in some way, whether that’s by being nice and warm and maternal and all those things, or in this case, by being someone who’s directly underneath and expected to be loyal and deferential, and in service of a white male president.” 

I guess we’ll give it another go in four years, then.

But let’s not limit this discussion to the veep. While that feels like so much of what we can currently think about and talk about and tweet about, Entitled does not actually focus primarily on the gender dynamic in politics. Reading the book is in fact a bit like taking a sweeping tour, a la It’s a Wonderful Life, of one’s history experiencing misogyny, except Manne is a sharper, more astute Clarence. 

It’s not so much that Manne ushers the reader through their own significant life events; it’s more about the way she frames the egregious examples of misogyny in the striking-yet-oh-so-familiar terms of male entitlement. For the duration of the book, I found myself flashing back to all the times men felt entitled to my body or my mind, all the times I earned the ire of a man simply by taking up space that he felt entitled to. But there’s something cathartic about seeing all of that on the page; it’s a bit like pouring cold water on a fire that was gaslit. It’s not just us, we are not imagining it, this is absurd and unfair. Manne uses mainstream examples: Brett Kavanaugh’s hissy fit during a confirmation hearing to the highest court in the land, Elliot Rodgers’s violent rampage that was fueled by his entitlement to a certain ideal of female beauty, the well-documented dismissal of female pain in medical spaces (which gets much worse if you are female but not white). 

So much of the power of this book can be found in the crystallization of what “misogyny” means. So many people are afraid to call it by its name, Manne notes, and too often that translates to gender-based violence or discrimination being explained away as something more innocuous. We’ve all heard the excuses: “Oh, he’s just grouchy like that sometimes, don’t let it get to you,” or, “Well, he’s really been working on that.” Sure he is; sure he has. 

“Oh, he’s just grouchy like that sometimes, don’t let it get to you,” or, “Well, he’s really been working on that.” Sure he is; sure he has. 

Manne’s “entitlement” framing is a useful one, and it dispels the oversimplified notion that if women would simply act more entitled, we could gain more power and agency. It’s not, she argues, about women acting as entitled as men. It’s about burning down the structures that are in place now. “For that, we need to just keep pushing in a collective organized way as feminists have for the duration of the movement toward the change that we all need,” Manne says. “And that’s going to be a long, brutally piecemeal process.”

In the meantime, the timer until the big reveal clicks on and on, and, I guess that at least there are plenty of guys like Joe Biden to throw us a bone every now and again. Right?

Lunchtime Photo

Mother Jones Magazine -

My mother chose today’s photo. “Pick anything you want,” I said grandly. “Anything at all.” Naturally that meant she’d end up picking a picture much like yesterday’s. But I said anything, so what could I do?

Anyway, the two rightmost peaks (Modjeska and Santiago) form Saddleback, which is sort of a looming presence throughout Orange County. That is, it’s a looming presence unless you get up close and shoot it on an exceptionally clear day, as I did here. From this angle, in fact, you rightly wonder why anyone bothered to give it a name at all. Sometime in the future I’ll take a picture that shows Saddleback the way it’s more commonly seen, and its looming-ness will become a little more obvious.

December 27, 2019 — Lake Forest, California

A Native American Artist’s Stunning Protest Mural Wins the “Art on the Streets” Award

Mother Jones Magazine -

The 66-foot-tall painting depicts the artist’s 14-year-old daughter, her face covered by a handprint that symbolizes missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, on the side of a downtown Colorado Springs building. Painting as an act of protest and education is artist Gregg Deal’s way of calling attention to “a silent epidemic,” he says. And his mural, Take Back the Power, just won the city’s Art on the Streets award.

His daughter helped him paint it; she wanted to help her father give voice to the many who are voiceless. “As a Native person, I get to be up there representing Native people and this epidemic,” she told the Gazette. “I think it’s very important that we get that type of representation.” To create the mural, her father partnered with the Haseya Advocate Program, a nonprofit resource for Native survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. “Any amount of awareness” is essential, says Monycka Snowbird, an advocate with the program. “We’re hoping people see this, google it, and get more background.”

Watch the 5-minute video of the mural’s creation, with inspiring comments from the artist and his daughter. A Recharge shoutout to the Gazette’s visual team, including Katie Klann, for the powerfully produced video.

The U.S. Postal Service Was Never a Business. Stop Treating it Like One.

ACLU News -

When the Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General, our nation had not yet been founded. The Bill of Rights would not be drafted for another 16 years. Yet nearly two and a half centuries later, the United States Postal Service’s ability to provide every person in America with a private, affordable, and reliable means to exchange information transformed it from a mail delivery service into a baseline for the exercise of American constitutional rights.

Recent news that the Postal Service’s financial condition is being used as a pretext for degrading its service – including allowing mail to go undelivered for days and scaling back the hours of or closing post offices – threatens to degrade that constitutional baseline as well.

In an early response to novel coronavirus, Congress allocated $10 billion to help shore up the Postal Service’s finances, but the Treasury Department has held up those funds without explanation. Instead, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is preparing to make dramatic service cuts, treating the USPS like a private business facing bankruptcy. This should draw universal condemnation.

The U.S. Postal Service was never a business. It is an essential government service guaranteed to the American people by the U.S. Constitution and it should be preserved accordingly.

To understand how the Postal Service became so central to America’s national identity and the actualization of our constitutional rights, one needs to examine its history.

In the earliest days of our nation, Americans were more likely to identify themselves as citizens of their home states than of the United States. For our nation’s first generation, the Postal Service was often the only reminder the U.S. had a federal government at all. As America expanded westward, the Postal Service enabled new states like California, which otherwise would have been isolated by America’s vast Western Territories, to forge its connection with the rest of the country. Ultimately, the roads, rail stations, and rural post offices that were built or subsidized by the Postal Service drove our nation’s physical unification.

Even more important were the nationwide communications the Postal Service enabled. Prior to the invention of the telegraph, the absence of a local post office made exchanging ideas with the rest of the country impossible. In America’s early decades, one of the most vital steps taken by newly established towns was to request a post office.

Recognizing that receiving information was as critical to our national unity as communicating it, Congress mandated the Postal Service deliver newspapers for free or at a minimal cost. As George Washington wrote in 1788, “I entertain a high idea of the utility of periodical publications … spread[ing] through every city, town and village in America. I consider such easy vehicles of knowledge, more happily calculated than any other, to preserve the liberty, stimulate the industry, and meliorate the morals of an enlightened and free People.” Low-cost newspaper delivery endured until the Congressional Postal Reorganization Act was adopted in 1970.

Prior to the 1850s, the delivery of free newspapers and of mail to isolated frontier towns caused the Postal Service to lose money. It likewise strained the Postal Service’s financial resources when, in the mid-19th century, it decided to charge the same price for all first-class letters sent within the U.S. regardless of their destination.

These choices were possible then because the Postal Service was not burdened with financial self-sufficiency. Its sole mandate was to enable everyone in America to communicate affordably. In that respect, the Postal Service’s public benefit mission is more akin to the Armed Forces’ than FedEx’s, and no one is suggesting the military should pay its own way or face bankruptcy.

Another important piece in the Postal Service’s preservation of civil liberties came in 1877, when the Supreme Court, in Ex Parte Jackson, ruled that “No law of Congress can place in the hands of officials connected with the postal service any authority to invade the secrecy of letters and such sealed packages in the mail.” As a result, the privacy of communications sent via the USPS is constitutionally guaranteed. Good luck getting that with Gmail.

The year 2020, perhaps more than any other in American history, illustrates why Postal Service’s centuries-old mission must be upheld.

The U.S. Census Bureau, which is presently racing to complete the 2020 census, is relying on the Postal Service for much of its data collection. Government health agencies are depending on the USPS to provide critical COVID-related health information and supplies. Elected officials are using the Postal Service for cost efficient and sometimes free communications with their constituents, including about support programs during the ongoing economic crisis. And as we approach the November election, state and local election boards will be relying more than ever on the USPS to conduct voting by mail, which is critical to guaranteeing the right to vote during the ongoing pandemic.

Troubling though it may be, it is impossible not to worry that our unpopular president, who has already called for the delay of his own re-election vote, is seeking to degrade the Postal Service’s ability to timely deliver ballots, particularly in communities that are unlikely to vote for him.

Earlier this year President Trump called the Postal Service “a joke,” but there is nothing funny about the steady degradation of an institution that breathes unimaginable life into our constitutional rights.

At this critical time, Congress should do everything in its power to ensure the USPS remains vibrant and strong, and that burden falls largely on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and its chair, Sen. Ron Johnson, and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and its chair, Rep. Carolyn Maloney. Every member of Congress and every American, regardless of political party or philosophy, should be grateful that for 245 years “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays the [Postal Service’s] couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” We should ensure that “nor politically-motived cost savings” is added to that list.

Christian Nationalists and Christian Zionists March Lockstep to Secure Another Four Years for Trump

Mint Press News -

Two thousand years ago, Jesus taught an oppressed, occupied people the ways of mercy and nonviolent resistance. In the intervening centuries, some strains of Christianity have transformed themselves from these humble roots into dominant, imperial forces.

Their “Christian” voices speak the language of the Bible, but their ideologies have little to do with the Bible’s message. Their followers – knowingly or unknowingly – encourage authoritarianism and racism with a stamp of approval from God.

These groups – Christian Nationalists and their cousins, Christian Zionists – have made their way into the halls of power, and may be the key to another four-year term for arguably the most catastrophic president in history.

 

The ideologies

Nationalism, according to the Oxford Dictionary and “Political Ideologies,” is “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations,” which “aims to build and maintain a single national identity.”

Christian Nationalism, then, promotes the interests (and perhaps, doctrines) of a particular strain of Christians, and aims to build a single Christian national identity – to the exclusion of the interests of other Christian groups in the nation and the interests of other nations.

Christians Against Christian Nationalism, a broad coalition of faith groups, adds:

Christian Nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.

Christian Zionism is a Christian movement that similarly promotes the interests of certain types of Jews in Israel, aiming to support them as they build a single, privileged Jewish national identity – to the exclusion of the interests of other groups in Israel and the interests of other nations.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. speaks at the Christians United for Israel Washington Summit, July 23, 2013. Charles Dharapak | AP

Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), an international movement seeking a just peace for Palestinians, opposes Christian Zionism. Jonathan Brenneman, the communications coordinator for FOSNA, described Christian Zionism to MintPress as:

An ideology which uses Christianity in the name of hate. Their mission is to increase their “Christian” influence on U.S. policy…upholding U.S. and Christian supremacy in its support of Israel’s worst practices.”

Christian Zionists see themselves as the only people who understand God’s plan, and they have the duty to implement it at any cost.”

Sounds crazy? These groups are not fringe. They are plentiful and powerful, to the point that they may have won Trump the election in 2016, and may do so again in 2020.

As Pew Research reported in March 2020, half of Americans hold the Christian Nationalist belief that the Bible should have a “great deal” or “some” influence over U.S. laws (though they might not label it as such). Some 28 percent believe that “if and when the Bible conflicts with the will of the American people, the Bible should have more influence on the laws of the land.”

In addition, roughly 70 million Americans profess the Christian Zionist beliefs that “God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants was for all time,” and that the creation of modern Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy leading to the return of Jesus Christ.

 

MAGA and Israel

As the U.S. has become more diverse and secular, the relative numbers of Christians – especially white Christians –  has been declining. White Christians have “lost their perceived standing as the country’s decision-makers amid their declining status,” driving many to Christian Nationalism as a path back to power.

Many of these Christian Nationalists heard in Candidate Trump’s MAGA slogan a promise to return America to its former greatness – the good old days when we “didn’t need no welfare state, everybody pulled his weight.”

Trump also promised to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, pull out of the treaty with Iran, and support Israeli settlements on Palestinian land – all wildly popular with Christian Zionists.

Some 80 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump – either to save America or to usher in the second coming of Christ.

 

The awkward issue of (Trump’s) sin

Trump’s evangelical fan club had a dilemma on its hands as his skeletons kept tumbling out of the closet. He was a hot mess, but they needed him.

In a piece for Salon, Paul Rosenberg goes so far as to suggest that a righteous candidate would have been a bad idea, writing that “When push comes to shove, the more vicious the leader, the better. The moral restraints of the deeply pious are the last thing you want for the job.”

Every day brought a new crisis – and a new rationalization: “Only God knows what is in Trump’s heart.” “Democrats have baggage too.” “He is the spirit of Cyrus.” “We’re all sinners.”

Under the new, Trump-inspired Christianity, some leaders portrayed him as “God’s choice,” and instructed followers to stand with him no matter what. Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the oldest megachurch in the U.S., demonstrated this just before the 2016 election when he quite literally contradicted the words of Jesus in defense of Trump:

I don’t want some meek and mild leader or somebody who’s going to turn the other cheek. I’ve said I want the meanest, toughest SOB I can find to protect this nation.”

 

From Bible to policy

The Trump campaign, and then administration, has always included a large number of evangelical leaders – including Christian Zionists. They were not there only to pray, but according to Trump advisor Mike Evans, to have “a seat at the table.” Christian Zionists in Trump’s inner circle use their access to present their interpretation of scripture as potential foreign policy. And Apparently Trump listens.

Evangelical Trump advisor Mike Evans, left, poses with the President. Photo | White House

Evans has been part of that inner circle. He was in on private briefings with the president before the unveiling of the so-called Deal of the Century – Trump’s “peace plan” for Israel and Palestine, which heavily favors Israel. “Israel just got kissed by God,” Evans said of the plan. “I am not referring to Donald Trump as God, but I am saying he has Divine inspiration.”

Trump’s actions on behalf of Israel, which are often reckless and violations of international law and human rights, are understood as obedience to Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you [Abraham], and whoever curses you I will curse.”

 

Meet CUFI

The most powerful guest at the table has to be CUFI – Christians United For Israel – an organization boasting eight million members, and the quintessential mechanism of Christian Zionism.

At the CUFI’s helm is John Hagee, who teaches as fact his dispensationalist interpretation of the situation in Israel and Palestine. As Hagee puts it, “Israel exists because of a covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob 3,500 years ago – and that covenant still stands,” and “From a biblical, historical, and legal perspective, Israel owns, and does not occupy, the Holy Land. And one can not be an occupier on land it owns.” (The global community almost unanimously disagrees with the second statement, based on international law.)

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo themselves self-identify as Christian Zionists and Pence has even visited Israel on CUFI’s dime. Both have spoken at CUFI’s annual summit. At least three other high-level members of the Trump administration attended as well.

The organization is effective. The Hill listed at least five congressional seats and one governor that CUFI helped flip from blue to red in 2018. Their millions of members are ready to “show up at the polls and cast their ballot for the candidate that is best for the Jewish state.”

How? According to Sandy Hagee Parker of the CUFI Action Fund, “With approximately 50 events nationally per month, CUFI’s field staff is in constant education mode…”

“CUFI members don’t see Israel as a political issue, but as an exercise in their faith – and that will never change,” Hagee Parker boasts.

CUFI members can be mobilized as needed to support legislative action, visit a Congress member, attend a town hall meeting – whatever is needed to keep the agenda moving forward. Bottom line, in John Hagee’s own words:

We’re not another paper-shuffling, hand-clapping group of Christians…We are 4.5 million people who are organized in every state, every city, every voting district.”

 

War with Iran

Iran is public enemy number one to Christian Zionists, who believe that the end times must be preceded by war and bloodshed. Iran is more than just a geopolitical enemy – it is, as religious historian Diana Butler Bass explains, “sort of a prophetic dog whistle to evangelicals…they’re eager for Christ to return and they think that this war with Iran and Israel has to happen for their larger hope to pass.”

And so John Hagee – a pastor, mind you – has repeatedly called for Iran to be hit with a “maximum pressure campaign,” including at one point a preemptive strike.

Vice President Pence, left, greets Hagee at CUFI’s annual summit, July 8, 2019, in Washington. Patrick Semansky | AP

In 2017, Christian Zionists pestered Trump to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. According to the Christians United For Israel website:

CUFI has made moving the embassy to Jerusalem a central focus of its 2017 agenda…Pastor John Hagee, has used White House audiences with Pres. Trump and Vice Pres. Mike Pence to urge them to move the embassy.

Days before Pres. Trump’s inauguration, the CUFI Action Fund held a Washington fly-in during which more than 260 leaders representing 49 states urged that the embassy be moved. And CUFI members have sent more than 137,000 emails to the White House in support of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

The embassy move took place in May 2018 amid peaceful protests that resulted in dozens of Palestinian deaths by Israeli sniper fire.

 

The only side of the story?

Just 40 percent of Jews living in Israel believe that God gave them the land; meanwhile, 82 percent of white American evangelicals believe it. How is that possible?

Brenneman explained that because there is no visible counter-argument against the damaging narrative of Christian Zionism, “Most people don’t even realize that they hold a Christian Zionist perspective.”

Like all extremist ideologies, it is built upon ignorance and insularity to perpetuate a warped perspective about Palestinians and what is happening in Palestine…

People passively hold these views because they are shielded from seeing devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences of their beliefs.

Christian Zionism [presents a binary construct in which] Israelis are good and barbaric Palestinians are bad, [and] places good “Western” Israelis against evil “Eastern” Muslims.”

 

The concealed truth

While mainstream media will never give a completely accurate picture of world events, it does manage to contradict Trump on a regular basis. He deals with these inconvenient truths by delegitimizing them as “fake news” and, as Kellyanne Conway famously gave us, the phrase “alternative facts.” His flock follows suit.

In the arena of accurate news on Israel and Palestine, many sources committed to rigorous reporting and educating are routinely denounced as “anti-Semitic” for daring to show Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians. Most Americans are thus not exposed to the truth about the injustice that Christian Zionism is inflicting on Palestinians through its support of Israel.

 

What about 2020?

As determined as progressives are to make Trump a one-term president, evangelicals and conservatives are resolute about winning him four more years. They are also well-organized and well-funded.

Data analysts are scouring statistics nationwide, looking for new conservative voters to register and recruit. Thousands of conservative, and also often evangelical radio stations, sing Trump’s praises; tens of millions of churchgoers are faithful to him.

Mike Evans, a Trump advisor, pointed out that the evangelical bloc “gave” Trump the presidency because of his pro-life stance and his support for Israel – and that same group has the power to “fire” him if he does not continue to toe the line. The current test will be if Trump endorses Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the Palestinian West Bank, a move deemed illegal under international law.

When asked about Trump’s re-election prospects, Evans explains how pro-Israel policy translates into votes:

I have 68 million Facebook followers. When the president blesses Israel, they feel strongly that God is going to bless us – He won’t get 90 percent; he will get 100 percent of this base.”

In fact, according to a 2019 Public Religion Research Institute poll of Trump supporters, 31 percent of white evangelicals said there is essentially nothing he could do that would lose their vote.

Stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody”? Apparently he can do no wrong.

Feature photo | Attendee sing worship songs during a President Donald Trump campaign event courting devout conservatives by combining praise, prayer and patriotism, July 23, 2020, in Alpharetta, Ga. John Amis | AP

Kathryn Shihadah writes for MintPress News and If Americans Knew. She speaks regularly about the injustice and demonization Palestinians face at the hands of Israel with complicity from the United States, especially to Christian audiences. Kathryn has lived in the Middle East for ten years and has traveled extensively. She blogs at PalestineHome.org.

The post Christian Nationalists and Christian Zionists March Lockstep to Secure Another Four Years for Trump appeared first on MintPress News.

Millennials in Poverty? It Depends On How You Look.

Mother Jones Magazine -

Is this true?

Millennials aren’t just the first generation set to do worse than our parents and our grandparents. If not for the (badly tattered) social safety net, we would be the most impoverished young adults since the Great Depression.

— Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic) August 11, 2020

Pretty much, yes. This is for 30-year olds:

This shouldn’t be surprising. Many Millennials faced the full force of the Great Recession in their early 30s, and that had a big effect on their income. At the same time, the system worked the way it was intended: they also received more government assistance than other generations during this time. When you put this together, their poverty rate was about the same as Gen X and lower than either boomers or boomer parents at the same age:

My only real objection to Filipovic’s tweet is her description of the social safety net as “badly tattered.” In fact, it’s grown steadily since the 60s and is quite robust these days. Republicans seem to spend their entire careers fighting to tear it apart, but the truth is that they’ve only nibbled around the edges. We may still not be as generous to the poor as social democratic Europe—and our anti-poverty programs are egregiously splintered and inefficient—but spending is pretty high and it’s reponsible for keeping poverty at lower real levels than it was for older generations.

Generally speaking, I think it’s important to keep two things in mind at the same time. It’s true that Millennials face unusual pressures: the Great Recession, student debt, and high housing costs foremost among them. At the same time, Millennial income at age 30 has recovered from the Great Recession and is now higher than it was for boomers and Xers.

(This data precedes the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be years before we know how that affected different generations.)

Bottom line: Millennials, on net, are not as well off as previous generations: they have slightly higher incomes but noticeably higher expenses. At the same time, the difference with previous generations is smallish and they really aren’t massively impoverished. The real scandal here isn’t so much intergenerational as inter-class: Why is it that income has barely budged for everyone in the past three generations?

Answer: Because the rich have gotten nearly all the gains. That’s the common enemy, not the ordinary folks who are a decade older or younger than you.

Dismantle the Department of Homeland Security. Its Tactics are Fearsome.

ACLU News -

This piece originally appeared in USA Today.

As an organization dedicated to civil liberties, civil rights, and the rule of law, we at the American Civil Liberties Union believe that the government has both the authority and responsibility to enforce its laws — laws that promote justice, equality, and the general welfare. In recent weeks, the actions of federal agents have shown us all that the Department of Homeland Security isn’t capable of acting consistently with the Constitution, and should no longer exist in its current state.

The scenes unfolding in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere are a reminder of the red flags many have raised about DHS throughout its history: that its powers are too great, and that it lacks the oversight and management to be effective. We can preserve our freedoms and our security better by dismantling DHS and beginning anew.

People across the political spectrum watched in disbelief as federal agents were deployed to American cities — despite objections by mayors and governors — to escalate violence against protesters. Paramilitary forces abducted people exercising their constitutional rights in Portland, placed them in unmarked vehicles, and took them to undisclosed locations.

The tactics deployed by DHS agents are unlawful and shocking, but they are no surprise: Back in 2002, we at the ACLU called the initial blueprints for the behemoth bureaucracy “constitutionally bankrupt.”

Dire warnings become DHS reality

And for nearly 20 years, we have seen many of our warnings about DHS become tragic realities. We objected to a knee-jerk plan that failed to respond to the intelligence law enforcement failures that contributed to the tragedy of 9/11. We believed that DHS would use the veil of “security” to target communities of color and immigrants, and urged greater civil liberties oversight.

Now, of course, we know that DHS has surveilled Black Lives Matter activist circles; descended into mosques and community centers to infiltrate Muslim communities; shot and killed foreign nationals across the border; and monitored protests using fusion center intelligence sharing hubs.

DHS is also responsible for separating children from their parents at our borders — a tragedy we continue to litigate.

The short history of DHS has been filled with violence, the stoking of fear, and a lack of oversight. The department’s horrific tactics are being used in cities across the country.

The fearsome tactics of DHS are well known to the communities against whom they are used. Its dysfunction is one of the Beltway’s worst kept secrets. DHS’s overbroad mandate and unchecked powers have turned it into a tinderbox, now ignited by a president willing to trample on the constitutional limits of presidential powers. While calls for reform have been loud and clear for years, new signals are now coming from the highest levels of the DHS diaspora.

Tom Ridge, the first secretary of Homeland Security, said recently that DHS “wasn’t designed to become the president’s personal militia.”

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asserted that President Donald Trump’s deployment of agents to U.S. cities is “damaging to the department.”

And Richard Clarke, who served on the National Security Council for Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, has called for dismantling DHS

Nearly 20 years of abuse, waste, and corruption demonstrate the failure of the DHS experiment. Joining 22 agencies with conflicting missions — including border security, disaster relief, and immigration enforcement, among others. Many insiders knew DHS to be an ineffective superagency, but President Trump has converted DHS into our government’s most notable badge of shame.

Break DHS into parts

Dismantling DHS, breaking it apart into various federal agencies, and shrinking its allocation of federal dollars will allow for more effective oversight, accountability, and public transparency. The spun-off agencies will have clearer missions and more limited functions. A behemoth of a federal agency too easily hides its problems and failings. Congressional oversight can be more readily divided among various congressional committees. Smaller agencies with clearer mandates will make Cabinet-level jobs more attractive to top-notch professionals.

There is also the added benefit that breaking up DHS will provide a larger number of Cabinet posts to reflect our country’s diversity. 

Most important, the very premise of a “homeland security” bureaucracy is chilling and ought to be questioned. Defense of the “homeland” became a rallying cry for hawks and some doves in the aftermath of 9/11, but this frame betrays the broader values that ought to infuse our democracy. Why, for example, is an agency responsible for citizenship and immigration under a threat-oriented department? Immigrants are not a threat to the “homeland.” 

Years of chaos and impunity make a clear case for the dismantling of DHS. President Trump’s use of DHS as his personal militia should be enough to start a meaningful bipartisan debate about DHS’ future. If there is one thing we have learned from the authoritarianism on display in Portland, it’s that we have to remove the loaded weapon that sits on the proverbial coffee table in the Oval Office.

Donald Trump should not be allowed to provide a precedent for future presidents with authoritarian tendencies to repeat the injustices we are enduring. Dismantling DHS into its component parts would restore greater balance to our system of checks and balances. And rather than tolerating misinterpretation of “homeland security,” we need our government to advance a “more perfect union.”

On Right-Wing Violence in Texas, Media’s Silence Sends Message

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting -

 

Hank Gilbert, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Louie Gohmert in Texas’ 1st congressional district, held a rally in Tyler, Texas, on July 26 against federal law enforcement agencies’ recent intervention in Portland, Oregon. But armed participants of a “Back the Blue” counter-protest crashed the event, beating and robbing attendees in the park. The attack injured a number of rally attendees, including Gilbert’s campaign manager Ryan Miller, resulting in at least two police reports being filed so far.

Supporters of Donald Trump menacing attendees at a rally for Louie Gohmert’s political opponent (YouTube, 7/29/20).

Videos (KETK, 7/26/20; Tyler Morning Telegraph, 7/26/20; YouTube, 7/29/20) from the scene show the majority of counter-protesters wearing Trump attire, with many also carrying American, Confederate and “Thin Blue Line” flags. In images posted to Facebook by Gilbert, one counter-protestor’s “white pride” tattoo is clearly visible. Many can be seen toting military-style rifles. Counter-protestors consistently expressed pro-Gohmert sentiments, at times drowning out Gilbert’s attempts to speak with chants of “Louie.”

But you wouldn’t know any of this from following major media outlets. Since the attack, we could find no major national newspaper or TV outlet coverage of it at all.

Beyond a handful of local stories, the only media attention we found came from two liberal-leaning news sites (Salon, 7/27/20; Talking Points Memo, 7/27/20) and nine sentences at the end of an Associated Press article (7/27/20) on a similar attack two-and-a-half hours west in Weatherford, Texas.

The city of Tyler has made national news twice recently. NPR’s “In East Texas, Death of George Floyd Brings Activism to a Region of Rare Protest” (6/13/20) exposed the country to Tyler’s current political happenings and the long history of white supremacist violence there. The piece described an activist named Blue speaking at a Black Lives Matter event, wearing a bulletproof vest that extended to her knees while addressing threats on her life.

Only weeks later, a protest by student-athlete Trude Lamb against the name of her school, Tyler’s Robert E. Lee High, was featured on CNN (6/24/20). Both articles show that events in Tyler, a small East Texas city, are the results of national events, and also have implications for the rest of the country.

Screengrab from video shot by the Tyler Morning Telegraph (Facebook, 7/26/20).

Likewise, armed supporters of a far-right politician holding Confederate flags and attacking people in broad daylight in front of police, in a place like East Texas with a history of white supremacist violence, is an important event with national implications about the growing boldness and militancy of the far right. It is a critical example of the white supremacist violence that has skyrocketed in response to the George Floyd uprisings.

Major media’s silence is also striking in light of Gohmert’s infamy across the country for a number of incidents which include, in the last year alone, being one of the four (out of 414) votes against an anti-lynching bill, outing an impeachment whistleblower on the House floor, drafting a resolution to ban the Democratic Party for its “loathsome and bigoted past,” and, most recently, testing positive for Covid-19 after refusing to wear a mask.

Gohmert supporters’ July 26 armed attack of his opponent’s rally came just three days after Gohmert’s July 23 resolution to ban Democrats, and three days prior to his July 29 Covid-19 diagnosis.

In addition to the lack of national coverage, much of the local coverage of the attack portrayed the events as a “clash” (Dallas News, 7/27/20) or “brawl” (KETK, 7/27), as opposed to the targeted political violence that it was.

Terms like “says” (Houston Chronicle, 7/27/20) and “claims” (CBS19, 6/29/20; KLTV, 6/26/20) are also used to make events that are recorded in readily accessible and verifiable videos seem disputed, murky or complicated.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph (7/27/20) reported that supporters of candidate Hank Gilbert like the one at left “felt they were attacked.”

This was typified by a lead from a piece in the Tyler Morning Telegraph (7/27/20) which read, “A small group of people…felt they were attacked Sunday by a large crowd with Trump signs and shirts.” The reporter who wrote the article was there live-streaming the event as the attack happened (Facebook, 7/26/20—see 16:00); he should be able to confirm whether or not Gilbert’s supporters were attacked. (The header image for the article provides an additional clue, showing one of those supporters being choked by a man in a Trump hat.)

Gohmert himself deploys these same tactics. In a statement to the Morning Telegraph (7/30/20), he says of the attack and the videos, “It is difficult to tell, from what I understand today, who started what.”

Whether this obfuscation comes from Gohmert or reporters, it has the same effect: It creates and deploys a narrative of “both sides” to justify the political violence of one side, and it ignores facts and uses neutered language to cloud who actually perpetrated the violence.

The end result of national media’s neglect and local media’s muddling is the erasure of right-wing political violence, sending a message to would-be future attackers that there will be no consequences for their actions.

Police Forces Need to Stop Threatening to Lie Down on the Job

Mother Jones Magazine -

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti wants to crack down on loud, persistent house parties that are potential spreaders of COVID-19. How? By giving police who respond to complaints the authority to request that utilities at the property be cut off. The police union is having none of it:

“Mayor Garcetti wants to reimagine policing. He should send his civilian staff to turn off people’s electricity & cut off their water,” the League said in a tweet over the weekend in response to the mayor’s plans. “Let officers deal with the rise in shootings and killings in L.A. We need a leader and not a political contortionist.”

This is a minor temper tantrum and I doubt anything will come of it. More generally, though, this kind of attitude has become so widespread in the wake of attempts to reform policing that I wonder if police forces risk losing the support of people who would normally be on their side? How long will taxpayers put up with threats to stop doing their job every time police forces are asked to make even the smallest change or sacrifice? It’s childish stuff and before long it’s likely to create a backlash that does the police no good.

US, Israeli Media Scramble to Blame Hezbollah for Deadly Beirut Explosion

Mint Press News -

The narrative that puts Hezbollah in the hot seat for the devastating explosion of ammonium nitrate, allegedly stored by the thousands of tons in one of the busiest ports in the eastern Mediterranean and which killed over two hundred people has a few holes in it, to say the least.

As the mainstream U.S.-led international media beats the drums of war with commercial breaks in between, they are relying on a few key stories to hang Lebanon’s most popular political body and lock mainstream news consumers’ sights squarely on Hassan Nasrallah, the third leader of Lebanon’s anti-Zionist party, Hezbollah, as the ultimate target of the next modern-day crusade in the Middle East.

The through-line of the stories is the insinuation that Hezbollah has been “stockpiling” the explosive agent for years, ascribing the jurisprudential concept of “opportunity” to the grassroots militant Lebanese resistance movement in the imaginary courtroom melodrama unfolding in the minds of cable news junkies.

A May report from The Times of Israel spotlighted a local TV news segment about a “months-long delicate operation” by Mossad to expose a supposed Hezbollah-linked group’s “operations in Germany,” which resulted in a raid on warehouses with stashes of ammonium nitrate tied to an “Iranian-backed… Shiite terrorist organization.” The raids concentrated on four mosque associations in Berlin, Dortmund, Bremen, and Münster with alleged allegiance to Hezbollah. The details of Mossad’s role in the raids were made public only after the Teuton state officially banned “all Hezbollah activities” from the country on April 30, 2020.

Mossad gave Berlin intel on Hezbollah ops on German soil ahead of ban https://t.co/Ry3kLhpUsf

— Magnus Ranstorp (@MagnusRanstorp) May 3, 2020

According to a German newspaper, however, the order for the raid of the suspected mosques was a preemptive move meant to “secure evidence before it could [be] destroyed” as a result of the announcement. Actual evidence about alleged Hezbollah-related activities has yet to surface. When a member of the local parliament of the German state of Bavaria – where the alleged cold packages containing ammonium nitrate had been stored – asked for confirmation from the Bavarian interior ministry, the ministry’s spokesperson denied having any information on the matter.

Other stories being propagated in the interest of framing Hezbollah for the blast in Beirut are much older and even more ephemeral. Such is the case of Atris Hussein; a Lebanese-Swedish citizen who was convicted in 2013 for “possessing a large amount of fertilizer that could be used to make explosives.” Hussein had been accused of hiding about three tons of ammonium nitrate for nefarious purposes. The 49-year old man had been arrested at the Bangkok airport just after a “terror warning” in the Thai capital had been issued by the U.S. and claims of a “possible attack by Hezbollah” from Israeli officials. Hussein, who denied any links to terrorist organizations, was eventually sentenced to two and a half months for illegal possession of fertilizer materials. The court found no evidence “to back the authorities’ claims that Hussein had ties to Hezbollah.”

 

Flagship propaganda

The main piece at the center of the Hezbollah blame game is one that covers the actual stash of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) that ignited earlier this month in the Port of Beirut. The 2,750 tons of NH4NO3 said to be stored at the port was the result of a curious chain of events that occurred in 2013. According to Eurasianet.org, a ship flying a Moldovan flag called Rhosus was on its way to Mozambique with the tons of ammonium nitrate when it had to make an emergency call on the port of Beirut. The ship is owned by a “rough-and-tumble businessman” from Russia named Igor Grechushkin who conducts business from the notorious tax-havens of Cyprus and the Marshall Islands.

After Lebanese authorities inspected Grechushkin’s vessel and deemed it unseaworthy, the Russian abandoned the boat and its contents in the Port of Beirut, leaving tons of the explosive material behind, material which was subsequently stored at a port warehouse where it reportedly “languished” for years without proper maintenance. The ammonium nitrate cargo, itself had been produced by the largest manufacturer of nitrogen-based fertilizers in the South Caucasus region; a company called Rustavi Azot in the Republic of Georgia.

Rustavi Azot has received substantial support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) over the years, including a $155 million financing package in 2016. The EBRD is a loan and equity finance institution formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union to help Eastern bloc countries “transition away from centrally-planned economies” and serves as a conduit for “EU accession” for Eurasian countries like Georgia, which also houses the Lugar Center; a DoD-funded facility exposed as a cauldron for U.S. biological and chemical weapons experimentation.

Israeli TV, meanwhile, is riling up the Jewish state with claims that the tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port were being stockpiled for a “Third Lebanon war” against Israel. Former Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, added fuel to the fire by claiming that he had “been aware of the material’s presence there and [that Hezbollah] had control over the port” and that the explosion of a “Hezbollah weapons depot” at the port had preceded the igniting of the ammonium nitrate.

Israel TV: Hezbollah apparently wanted Beirut’s ammonium nitrate for Israel war https://t.co/JCecb0qo2Q

— The Times of Israel (@TimesofIsrael) August 7, 2020

But skeptics point out that the location of the port, which is in a Christian neighborhood, would preclude Hezbollah from operating any kind of weapons depot in the area. Doubts about whether ammonium nitrate had any role at all have also emerged. A renowned Italian explosives expert told Corriere Della Sera that he doesn’t believe the claimed amount of ammonium nitrate was present at the port and favors military weaponry as the real cause of the blast.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has categorically denied having any knowledge of stockpiling ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut and a Lebanese intelligence official has outright blamed Israel for the conflagration.

 

An old tall tale

“For 37 years, Hezbollah has been murdering innocent people,” wrote U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell in a 2019 editorial published in Die Welt. The diplomat targeted mosques as the places where “Hezbollah sympathizers meet” and “tolerate terrorist propaganda in support of Hezbollah and the Iranian regime.” Grenell repeatedly called for the proscription of Hezbollah’s presence in the European nation. But his insistence had so far failed to overcome the lack of political will to do so.

That changed when the opportunity to justify the ban materialized with mosque raids in April 2020, in an operation with eerie similarities to the events that preceded a ban on Hezbollah by the UK government in January, when it officially classified the Lebanese political organization as a terrorist organization. Just as was the case in Germany, it was the Mossad who provided British officials with the “intelligence” leads.

Hezbollah stockpiled chemical behind Beirut blast in London and Germany https://t.co/10PkOkC4g1

— Amir Tsarfati (@BeholdIsrael) August 5, 2020

At the end of the day, the consistent pressure by the U.S. and Israel on other nations to demonize Hezbollah and discredit them in the eyes of their supporters may well be the only provable fact surrounding the tragic incident that took place in Beirut last week. Unfortunately, it is also clear that the U.S. and Israel will stop at nothing – even lies – to perpetuate a geopolitical paradigm that is guaranteed to produce even more tragedy.

Feature photo | Women stand in their damaged house as they look at the aftermath of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 10, 2020. Bilal Hussein | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post US, Israeli Media Scramble to Blame Hezbollah for Deadly Beirut Explosion appeared first on MintPress News.

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