Moveon.org: Free Impeachment stickers!

It’s official: The House has just voted to impeach Donald Trump, making him only the third president in United States history to achieve such an infamous designation.

This is an enormous milestone, driven in large part by the work of MoveOn members like you, Robert.

To mark this momentous day—and to remind the senators who will now pick up the process that no one is above the law—MoveOn has printed a big batch of these impeachment stickers, and we’re giving them away for free while supplies last.

Just click here or on the image below to order yours now!

As we move into this next phase of the impeachment and removal fight, let’s not forget just how much work went into building a movement to make this day possible.

MoveOn called for Trump’s impeachment over two years ago, after his first attempts to obstruct the investigation into Russian election meddling, and ever since, MoveOn members and our allies have been steadily growing a coalition of support for impeachment in the face of Trump’s continued, blatant, and unrepentant criminality.

Although the House voted to impeach Trump on only two counts—abuse of power and obstruction of Congress—they point to the larger pattern of his corruption and cruelty.

As the Mueller report laid out, Trump attempted to obstruct that investigation at least ten times, and he encouraged contacts between his campaign and Russian agents.

Not only did he attempt to bribe Ukraine into interfering in the 2020 elections, he then openly called for China to do the same and directed his administration to refuse to cooperate with the House’s investigation of those efforts.

And most heinously, he violated international law by ripping children from their families at the border and holding immigrants and asylum-seekers in concentration camps, often without access to food, water, hygiene products, or medicine.

Donald Trump may not have earned much in his life on his own, but he earned his impeachment.

Now let’s spread the word that Trump is not above the law and make sure that the Senate does its job by convicting and removing him from office.

Click here to get your free sticker now.

Thanks for all you do.

–Kelly, Kate, David, Mark, and the rest of the team

Sacha Baron Cohen’s criticism of Facebook is his funniest joke

Yes, there is hate speech on social media, but is that all there is to it?

by
Sacha Baron Cohen arrives at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California on September 22, 2019 [Reuters/Mario Anzuoni]
Sacha Baron Cohen arrives at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California on September 22, 2019 [Reuters/Mario Anzuoni]

In late November, actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen gave a talk at the Anti-Defamation League about hate speech and anti-Semitism on social media. He called Big Tech and social media “the greatest propaganda machine in history,” adding: “Just think what Goebbels could have done with Facebook.”

Shortly after, Facebook rejected the accusation, releasing a statement saying that hate speech is banned on the platform.

Baron Cohen’s speech has received much attention and widespread support, particularly in mainstream media which echoed and disseminated his observations.

The charge of being “the greatest propaganda machine in history” is, of course, loaded and draws our attention to other propaganda machines that existed long before Facebook and which might have a claim to that dubious distinction. Among them are the American war machine and the Israeli hasbara, neither of which Baron Cohen seems to reject. 

State propaganda and monopoly of information

There is some element of truth to what Baron Cohen says. There are people on the racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and white supremacist lunatic fringe that take advantage of social media to propagate hate.

But is that all there is to Facebook?

Has it, perhaps inadvertently, also provided a venue for those at the mercy of state and corporate propaganda to talk back at it, reasserting alternative narratives to those presented by, let’s say, the BBC and the New York Times?

I would daresay that those media organisations are, if not the greatest, then certainly major propaganda machines supporting a settler colony that the UK and US have been chiefly responsible for creating and sustaining. They have had that monopoly for decades – deciding and determining the terms of debate on Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.

Facebook and other social media platforms have, all their troubling dimensions notwithstanding, offered sites of resistance to their hegemony.

For those of us old enough to remember the mode of media coverage prior to the emergence of the internet, Baron Cohen’s observations actually sound quite ludicrous.

I remember vividly when the Iranian Revolution of 1977-1979 broke out. Then a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, I felt despair at being at the mercy of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any one of the three major US networks (ABC, CBS or NBC) – or particularly BBC radio – to tell me what was happening in Iran.

I remember driving to a Radio Shack shop in the King of Prussia suburb of Philadelphia to buy a short-wave device in order to listen to Tehran Radio and find out what was happening in my homeland. This is not to say that Tehran Radio told the truth and the New York Times spread lies. It just means we all needed more than one dominant and hegemonic source of news to make up our own minds.

Books have been written on how the New York Times and other major corporate media have helped state propaganda machineries. Consider Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky’s 1988 classic Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media or Richard Falk and Howard Friel’s 2007 book The Record of the Paper: How the New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy. They both document how monopoly over information, whether state or corporate, has helped justify to the public enormous atrocities and kept it purposefully ignorant of the truth.

Breaking the monopoly

Perhaps the case of the Palestinian national liberation struggles of the last 70 years is the most potent example of how the internet and social media has enabled Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian cause to counter the sustained course of Israeli propaganda in order to put the history of their dispossession and the robbery of their homeland on the global stage.

The internet started to break the powerful monopoly on how Palestine was portrayed in the 1990s. At first, it gave dissenting voices access to a wider audience.

I remember how one day, shortly after he had started his column for the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly in 1993, my colleague and eminent literary theorist Edward Said came to me on campus at Columbia University and declared, “Al-Ahram has liberated me!”

Forget about the New York Times, the chief organ of liberal Zionism, even the so-called progressive outlets like The Nation would not publish his critical assessments of Israeli thievery pre- and post-Oslo Accords.

What was the print circulation of Al-Ahram Weekly? Rather small. But its website gave people around the globe access to Said’s emancipatory writings.

Baron Cohen would most probably not like that. Said’s voice was not racist or anti-Semitic. It was and remains liberating and empowering for the dispossessed around the world.

Then social media not only opened up spaces for wider discussion on the Palestinian cause, connecting the diaspora and foreign supporters to Palestinians in Palestine, but also enabled grassroots organising and public documentation of Israeli violations and crimes.

Take the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Founded in 2005, a year after Facebook started and a year before Twitter was launched, it has managed to grow exponentially thanks to social media, which has helped spread its message and boost the effectiveness of its campaigns. It can rally support for boycott action across the world through a network of organisations and volunteers maintained on social media platforms.

The campaign has managed to make enough noise on social media and otherwise to get major artists to cancel events in Israel, including Snoop Dogg, Shakira, Laurin Hill and many others. In 2017, in response to an online BDS letter, New Zealand artist Lorde tweeted: “Noted! Been speaking w many people about this and considering all options. Thank u for educating me I am learning all the time too” before cancelling her concert in Tel Aviv.

The success of the BDS campaign has much to do with the increasing access to information about Israeli crimes on the internet, and especially on social media. Over the past decade, Palestinians and supporters of their cause have increasingly been able not only to document daily Israeli oppression but to post it online for the world to see.

Whether it is shocking images of children killed by Israeli fire in Gaza, videos of Israeli snipers shooting an unarmed Palestinian and celebrating it, or footage of Israeli soldiers carrying out an extrajudicial killing – Palestinians can broadcast to the world Israeli violence in real-time on social media.

If it were up to the New York Times and BBC, it is unlikely any of these crimes would be properly reported. It is only because Palestinian voices have been empowered and amplified online that we hear in detail about what is happening in Palestinian lands.

Who is to throw the first stone?

I have no love lost for Big Tech. To me, they are big corporations and as such, are as immoral and hazardous as every other big corporation. And there is no doubt of the enormity of the horror of white supremacy and its proponents’ use of these platforms to promote hatred.

But social media and the interconnectedness it has encouraged also mean we are not at the mercy of any state or corporate media to decide what is “fit to print”.

The question is not whether Facebook is or is not vulnerable to abuse by racist and xenophobic groups. Of course it is. But who is the person levelling these charges and where is the podium from which he launches this attack.

Baron Cohen makes money out of perpetuating the worst stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims in his films and shows. And the ADL, where he gave the speech, is itself known for its racist activism

The cause of Zionism that Baron Cohen and the ADL fully embrace has totally discredited the charge of anti-Semitism and weaponised it against those who dare criticise the horrors of the settler colony against Palestinians.

But none of that in and of itself discredits what he says. Even a broken clock is accurate twice a day.

There is rampant racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, etc and social media can be a cesspool for entertaining such nefarious ideas. But we need to be even and identical in our criticism of all of these terrorising forms of racism in one breath. We cannot denounce just one while trading in the others.

The internet is a blessing and it is a curse. But it has made the world a more level playing ground to oppose and end abuse of power.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

Petition: Stop the cuts to Food Stamps

The Trump administration recently announced changes to SNAP that will cause hundreds of thousands of people to lose access to their “food stamp” benefits. Will you sign the petition to urge Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to stop these attacks on families who depend on SNAP?

USDA’s newly proposed rules for SNAP will cut food stamp benefits for hundreds of thousands of hungry people. We demand that you stop these proposed changes before they take effect on April 1, 2020.

According to Feeding America, “SNAP provides families with their basic nutritional needs to get them through temporary hard times. It helps people get back on their feet and on the road to a better life.”

But the Trump administration has been working for the last three years to undermine SNAP as part of their agenda to limit access to public assistance programs.

This newly announced attack on SNAP is especially outrageous, because Congress rejected these proposed changes to the program during the Farm Bill debate last year. The House rejected them in a bipartisan vote of 330-83, and the Senate voted down a similar amendment 68-30.

But now, Sonny Perdue, Trump’s secretary of agriculture, is moving forward with these changes through an undemocratic “executive order” that targets very poor people struggling to work—many of whom are homeless, living in small towns and rural communities with little or no access to employment, or have health conditions that prevent them from working.

Click here to add your name to this petition, and then pass it along to your friends.

Thank you.

—Matthew Hildreth, RuralOrganizing.org

Thanks to all who have already sent letters to Judge Wood regarding the sentencing of the Plowshares defendants. With no sentencing date yet set more letters are welcomed.

Letters should be sent to lead defense attorney Bill Quigley at the address below. He will compile them and distribute to various defendants’ attorneys for delivery to Judge Wood. The attorneys suggest it would be helpful to get these done by December 20 in order to get processed and delivered. Sentencing is expected to be in late January or possibly February.

The best letters are simple, polite, and tell good things about the person you are writing in support of.
The suggested format is as follows:
 
Date
Sender’s Name
Sender’s Address
 
Judge Lisa Godbey Wood
c/o Bill Quigley
Loyola University New Orleans Law Clinic
Campus Box 902
7214 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70118
 
Regarding Sentencing of: Mark Colville [or] Clare Grady [or] Martha Hennessy [or] Fr. Steve Kelly SJ [or] Elizabeth McAlister [or] Patrick O’Neill [or] Carmen Trotta  (or all seven of the Kings Bay Plowshares)
                     
Dear Judge Wood,
 
  Suggested outline for the letter:
    – Explain who you are.
    – Explain who you are writing about, how you know them, and what good they do for their
      community.

– Thank the Judge for reading your letter.

 
Signature and Title, if appropriate.
            _________________________________________________________________________

For more ideas and details for your letters of support, you can see the defendants’ biographies here. There are also a number of excellent recent media stories, listed by publication, on the defendants and the trial available on the front page Media Coverage box on the website.
If you are writing for the defendants individually you should know that they don’t want to ask for leniency. They see their time in prison as part of the witness but your letters can still attest to their good character.
 
Stay tuned for the sentencing date. Also, look for next steps on our website, Get Involved Page. Support ICAN’s Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and divestment campaigns from nuclear weapons manufacturers and other related issues.
Thank you for your attentiveness to the trial, your solidarity and support for the defendants and their families, and your focus on the issue of the abolition of nuclear weapons.
As Fr. Steve Kelly says, “The nuclear weapons won’t go away by themselves.” We do this work together.
In solidarity,
 

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 Support Team

 

Please Donate
Thanks to your support, we have mobilized thousands of people around the world to speak out for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Please help with expenses, housing, and supporting defendants’ families following the verdict and the upcoming sentencing.
  • Send checks to: Plowshares, PO Box 3087, Washington, DC 20010
  • Donate online: GoFundMe 
Email: to Media Team: kbp7media@gmail.com

Report: UAE linked to illegal influence in 2016 US election

Adviser to UAE crown prince allegedly funnelled over $3.5m in illegal campaign contributions, New York Times says.

An indictment links the United Arab Emirates to illegal campaign donations [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
An indictment links the United Arab Emirates to illegal campaign donations

A federal indictment unsealed in the United States details how the United Arab Emirates (UAE) sought influence in the campaigns of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, according to a report by the New York Times.

The indictment, which was released this week by the US Department of Justice, accuses businessman George Nader of funnelling more than $3.5m in illicit campaign donations through fellow businessman Ahmad Khawaja.

Khawaja has also been charged with acting as a conduit for Nader’s illegal contributions.

The donations sought to attain “favour” and “potential financial support” in Washington for an unnamed foreign government , at first with Democrat Clinton and her allies, and then with Trump after he unexpectedly won the election, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper said that a close-reading of the 64-page indictment makes it clear that the government in question is the United Arab Emirates, where Nader runs a business and advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

While lobbyists with foreign clients regularly make contributions to US political campaigns, critics told the newspaper that the alleged scheme detailed in the indictment is one of the most brazen attempts by a foreign government to buy foreign influence during a campaign in recent memory. Rarely, the newspaper noted, has a head of state been so closely linked to allegedly evading campaign finance laws.

Nader had previously testified last year during the Federal Bureau of Investigations inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He is in jail in the US on charges related to the possession of child pornography.

‘Baklava’, ‘Our Sister’, and ‘HH’

The federal indictment detailed that Nader and Khawaja, in messages, often referred to the back-channel donations as “baklava”, candidate Clinton as “Our Sister” or “the Big Lady”, and the UAE crown prince by the initials “HH” for his His Highness.

Leaked documents show Saudi, UAE bid to influence Trump

“Will send you a note on the matter as per HH instruction,” Nader wrote in a text message in late June 2016, which also described a million-dollar payment of “baklava”, according to the report.

Several exchanges quoted in the indictment also show Nader reassuring Khawaja about the delivery of large sums of money to pay for donations.

“Fresh hand made Baklva on the way designed especially for that private event at your house later this month! First tray on the way!” Nader wrote in a message in July 2016. “Once you taste it and you like the choices more on the way soon.”

The messages also indicated that Nader kept the crown prince abreast of his efforts.

“Traveling on Sat morning to catch up with our Big Sister and her husband: I am seeing him on Sunday and her in Tuesday Sir! Would love to see you tomorrow at your convenience. . . for your guidance, instruction and blessing!” Nader wrote in June 2016 to an Emirati official who appears to be the crown prince, the New York Times report said.

A representative of the Emirati embassy in Washington declined to comment to the newspaper.

Daily Kos Cartoons and Community: Crazy/Stupid Republican of the day: Mike Pence

Some of the most read and shared community-written stories of the week, along with some cartoons at Daily Kos, the largest online gathering space for progressives.


Follow Daily Kos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Thanks for all you do,
The Daily Kos team

Petition: Tell Congress to Ban surprise medical bills.

It’s bad enough that Americans have to pause in the midst of medical emergencies to ask if insurance companies will cover the cost of treatment. But it’s even worse that visits to “in-network” providers can still result in hundreds or thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills.1

Today, one in five emergency room visits — and 70 percent of critical air ambulance transports — result in surprise medical bills. When healthcare providers and insurance companies can’t agree on how much treatment costs, they turn around and bill patients for the difference.2

Insurance companies’ greed has broken our healthcare system in more ways than we can count. But right now, we have a chance to take real, bipartisan action to end surprise medical billing, and we can’t let it go to waste.

One surprise medical bill can tip someone into bankruptcy, and they are growing more and more common. Maybe the insurance company pads its profits by paying the hospital or ambulance less than the treatment costs. Or providers demand higher and higher fees that the insurance company won’t pay. Or the insurer reimburses the hospital, but not the doctor who provided treatment. Regardless, the story ends the same: patients end up stuck paying for the balance, with no warning and through no fault of their own.3

The good news is that there is new momentum behind legislation that would ban this “balance billing,” based on three commonsense principles:4

  • Ban surprise balance billing and fully protect patients with no exceptions, especially in emergency situations where people can’t make sure they will see an in-network provider
  • Contain costs by establishing a reasonable payment level between providers and insurers based on actual prices, not corporate greed
  • Ensure comprehensive protection nationwide so federal law reinforces the strongest state laws and helps people in states with no protections


A bipartisan consensus in Congress is emerging against surprise medical bills but insurers and emergency medical providers are fighting back to preserve their profits.5 It’s up to us to fight for the strongest possible legislation with no loopholes or handouts.

Sign CREDO’s petition to Congress: Ban surprise medical bills.

SIGN THE PETITION
Thank you for speaking out,

Heidi Hess, Co-Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets